Let’s All Thank the One Percent

I could make this a long-winded venting session, but instead, will keep it short so that I can go watch a movie with Marni, which is what I deserve to be doing.

 A dog died of a horrible disease.  The clients paid lots of money to have us try everything we could to save him.  He died during my shift.  The clients were a mess.  I did everything I could to comfort them.  I felt very sorry for them.  When they were done visiting with their dog’s body, they asked me, “What do we do now?”

I told them they should decide what to do with the dog’s remains.  They have two options.  They could opt for communal cremation, the most popular option, where the dog would be cremated with other pets.  Or, they could opt for a private cremation in which they would receive their dog’s ashes back.  I also said we could hold their dog’s remains until they decide.  I remember they looked at me a little strangely, which many of my clients do when I mention the idea of a private cremation and an urn with ashes.  I told them, as I tell all those clients, that some people find having their pet’s ashes around the house “a little weird”.  They said, “We don’t want to deal with that.”

 I assumed they meant, as many of my clients do, that they don’t want to deal with having ashes around as a reminder of the tremendous grief they now feel.  Most of my clients won’t even consider getting another dog months later because it would remind them of their grief.  Apparently, they mean that they didn’t want to deal with the decision then, and would prefer that we hold the body.

We have a form which we often sign off on when the clients relate their wishes verbally.  In the interest of their comfort, I signed off on the form saying they wanted a communal cremation.

2 days later, they called back saying they had done research online and want to have tissue harvested from their dog so they can clone him when cloning is perfected, and then they want a private cremation.

As you might imagine, they were very upset to hear their dog had been communally cremated.  I admit, for someone convinced cloning will bring back their pet, and who wants ashes around to make them feel as if their pet is still with them, this would be very upsetting.  I felt aweful.  I wished I could go back in time to change it, but alas, I couldn’t.

When I spoke with him on the phone, he tried as hard as he could to make me feel as bad about it as possible.  “You took my dog away and burned him with other dogs!”   “That dog was like our child.  My wife and I have no kids.”  “My wife is a mess!  If this was a human there would be a multi-million dollar law suit.”  “I don’t think I should pay a cent for anything that happened at your hospital.”  and my personal favorite, “I work for The New York Times.”

I am proud to have kept my witts about me.  I responded with, “My primary concern is your wife’s and your healing. “  I explained that I have nothing to do with the financial aspect of this discussion, and that I am concerned that they are having trouble with the grieving process because all the tissue samples, ashes, and money in the world will not bring their dog back to them.  I explained that many grieving people have issues with misplaced anger, and that I wanted to help them in any way I could.  I offered to speak with his wife.  He had no interest in what I had to say, but kept insisting that he wanted to talk to the manager of the hospital.

The reason I’m writing this, is that part of me says, “You’ve learned a lesson.  Next time, force the clients to read the paperwork, and physically sign the form themselves.”  The other part of me says, “this man represents 1% of my clients.  The other 99% thank me for my compassionate manner.  They call me to tell me how happy they were with our care, and with my help in dealing with the loss of their pet.  Do I really want to change my ways because of one mistake and one mean person?”

Mistakes happen.  If you are the victim of an honest mistake, realize that if you force people to deviate from their normal behavior just to prevent that occasional mistake, you may be hurting other people.  Sometimes hot coffee spills.  We can all try to be more careful.  We can print warnings on the cups.  We can force cashiers to ALWAYS warn people that their coffee is hot.  We can create special, corrugated, cardboard holders to slide over the triple-layered paper cups.  When the price of coffee goes up because of the costs of doing all these things, the other 4.9 billion people who understand that sometimes accidents happen, suffer. 

OK so it wasn’t short, and it kind of was a venting session.  But I’m done and the movie hasn’t started.


4 thoughts on “Let’s All Thank the One Percent

  1. Sigh. What a terrible thing for you to have to go through, as I am sure you did all you could do for the dog. I can just imagine you saying the phrase “misplaced anger” to someone with misplaced anger. I bet it didn’t go over too well. I think it is great you took the high road.

  2. Thanks Candace. I think I’m going through my own grieving period with this. Not that my feelings could come close to the feelings of loss they must be having, but the knot I get in my stomach every time I think about this mess, reminds me of the feelings I had when I was in mourning.

  3. Hey Bessie…couldn’t email you.tried to click on the link but it wouwouldn’t let me. So, i’m desperate for a decent job…was wondering how u liked it at your place and if they were hiring. I’m tired of working in places that don’t practice quality medicine. I need your help…if u can. email me whenever you have time and i’ll give you my # so we can talk over the phone. I’m sorry to trouble you but i don’t know what else to do. Thank you Brittany

  4. Having lost a dog recently I can understand the misplaced emotions. That pain can be very confusing and even debilitating during those first few days. To tell you the truth, I would have been a bit upset with you, too. If I had asked you to hold the body because I could not make a decision right then, I would expect you to have held the body. I certainly would not expect you and anyone else to make a decision about what to do with the remains of my pet/family member. I know you did not intend to be hurtful or inconsiderate. Maybe there was just a miscommunication, but I also think this family had every right to be upset with the outcome. Certainly, an apology was in order. You did the right thing in that case. And of course the mistake was not unforgiveable. Sorry for both parties in this situation. Thanks for the work you do for animals and families and also for sharing your story.

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