Things I shouldn’t say.

You always need to keep the compassion turned on, for the owner as well as the animal.  Sometimes the animal just doesn’t have enough sense to stay out of trouble, and sometimes we’ve just provided such a dangerous environment that it’s hard to stay safe. It’s really not fair to blame a pet for his problems (with the exception of the few dogs in the "stupid hall of fame", anyway).  If the owner didn’t care about the pet, you wouldn’t be seeing it.  And yet…

Today my (as usual) full schedule got rearranged by the sudden and previously unexpected appearance of a new client whose little dog had returned from it’s bathroom trip with a serious injury.  No, the yard isn’t fenced, and no, they weren’t watching him, but he always just goes out and right back in with no problem… until today, that is. While we were working to stabilize him, I can hear through the exam room door, "My dog just got hit by a car!".  I momentarily think to myself, "Well, who’s dying the fastest here?", but my thoughts are interrupted by the first dog’s owner saying, "Bad day for dogs."   Before I could run it by my editorial review board, I popped out with "Bad day for dogs who run loose."

Sometimes things are true enough, but there’s little to be gained by saying them.  No point in making people feel worse than they already do.  Early in my career I thought that these occasions would be good for teaching people to be more responsible.  If you could just show them how wrong they are, they would change their ways.  The flaw in this is that people don’t want to be wrong.  Making them feel wrong just puts them on the defensive and less receptive to whatever you have to say.  It’s not a very effective way to educate.  You might as well wag your finger at the smoker with lung cancer and say "I told you so".  It won’t help the cancer and it won’t get you in their will, either.

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