Extracts from Chapter 2

Making clients feel at home
Surgery pets

It is somewhat of a blow to one’s confidence in a service provider if that individual doesn’t have at least a token sympathy or familiarity with one’s particular problems. Thus to take advice from a garden expert who lives in a flat feels rather strange. What do they know of soil conditions, compost heaps and galloping greenfly? How can they share your concerns about shady and sunny flowerbeds without having first-hand experience? How about buying meat from a butcher who is vegetarian? What sort of advice can he give you about the tastiest cuts, or the importance of marbling in your beef joint?

Similarly it always gives a client a little more confidence in their veterinary practice if they know that ownership of a pet or pets is involved, together with the intimate appreciation of the pleasures and anguish that this entails. For this reason I would strongly recommend that some pet animals are on view in the practice. These may be pets belonging to staff, bought for the clinic, or waifs and strays picked up along the way.

It never does any harm to let clients see these pets and follow their progress. They become quite attached to them, and it forms an extra bond between client and practice. Not all surgeries have the facilities to keep a practice cat, let alone a dog. Birds, fish and small furries do form a useful alternative, especially if the practice has an interest in exotics, when the animals provide free advertising and a big fillip to the confidence of owners. Something a little out of the ordinary always provides an extra interest. One of my first surgery pets was a budgie called Paxo given to me by a client because both his feet were paralysed. To help him cope we padded his perches until he was able to balance on them and he proved a very cheerful member of staff. He was very useful as an illustration to owners of various aspects of bird keeping, including how to cope with disability. He had another important role to play in the practice: his cage was often kept in the prep room, and he provided a perfect distraction for cats as they were anaesthetised. We seldom had to struggle with one. Paxo would always strike up a furious racket whenever we answered the phone, and many a client would ask after him when they heard his chattering.

Other pets to grace my practices have been finches, parrots, rats and fish. Our present fish are large and full of character, entertaining both clients and their pets, as well as demonstrating that we are capable of keeping and growing exotic fish, and so able to dispense useful advice.

Chapter 6

Clients, Pets and Vets Contents List