The Inverse Flower Phenomenon

Cards sepia smaller and header size

We do death really well. Cards like these tell me so. And so do the flowers. Any veterinarian will tell you about the flower phenomenon.

Let’s say I do a fantastic job on a case. A complex diagnosis, something rare and generally fatal, and after many hours of research (something that’s never billed to a client) I finally have it figured out. I go out of my way to obtain the right drug from an obscure source at an overseas university, treat the disease appropriately, manage a couple of complications that arise, and save the patient’s life.

The client quietly thanks me. Sometimes more effusively, but by the end it’s like we’ve run a marathon together and everyone is tired. Nobody talks about it again.

Let me take that same patient and euthanize him, though, and it’s very different. The client is sad but grateful for the way it is handled. And about half the time they send me a thank-you card. One in ten actually sends me flowers.

And that’s the flower phenomenon. It’s this weird upside down ratio of

what you expect : what really happens

When I was new to the profession I thought that if anyone ever sent flowers it would be a celebratory thing, like a life saved or a really good job done in surgery. I was puzzled to find that the flowers for death outnumbered the flowers for any other reason by a ratio of at least 20 to 1.

Moreover, they weren’t funereal flowers. We were getting bright bouquets of beautiful blooms that were the polar opposite of mournful. And I realized that these were celebratory occasions after all. They were from pet owners celebrating and commemorating the life of their friend, a life that I shared with them in a small way.

And they were also saying, “Hey, we know that was hard for you, too. We’d send cookies, but maybe you have a nut allergy; we don’t know you that well outside of the hospital stuff. But here are some flowers to cheer you up, and think about Norton when you see them. He really loved you, too.”

How do I know that? Because Norton’s dad wrote that to me. I still have the card. I still have all the cards.

Today I’m a tetchy dentist

I’ve been getting feedback on a recent post (The Ten Commandments of Dentalism). Veterinarians saw the humor in it, and the clients who have read the explanation gave generally positive feedback.

Mustache and dog 108 x 148There is, however, a small subset of readers who think that veterinary dentistry is just a way for vets to make money as they sit back and twirl their Snidely Whiplash mustaches. Why would owners spend $500, $600 or more to have the vet “clean the teeth” when it’s obviously something that can just be done by a groomer for $75? What a scam vets are running.  Continue reading

Keep the dog? Or keep the kid?

A relative was recently lamenting his decision (many, many years ago) to rehome his beloved dog.

His toddler ended up in the hospital on several occasions with severe asthma due to dog allergies. He contacted the dog’s breeder who immediately acted to find a new situation for the dog. (See? This is the reason you should get a purebred dog from a BREEDER, not a pet store or a puppy mill. They are dedicated to the dogs they place.)

He was contacted by several people and found a new home that he felt would be perfect for his dog. He drove 12 hours to deliver his furry friend to a new family that he hoped would love the dog as much as he did. He did everything exactly right, because he loved his dog. Continue reading

The Ten Commandments of Dentalism

Gingivitis mouthHere’s one for all of our veterinarian friends. For the non-vets reading this blog, I’ll explain the commandments for you down at the bottom. (If anyone wants to copy the Ten Commandments elsewhere, I’d prefer you to link to this page or, if you feel the need, copy the text with attribution, please.) Continue reading