By Rolan Tripp, DVM, CABC
“Shame on me!” I thought as I stood in the lobby of my own veterinary hospital 15 years ago. I was watching as one of my valued clients was dragging her dog into the hospital. The dog was a delightful Border Collie who obviously did not want to be there. There were two questions that came to mind:
(1) Does this animal act like this at other locations? (Answer, no.)
(2) Has she been to another veterinary hospital that I can blame for her fear? (No again.)
Dogs simply donít lie or make up stories. This dog had been treated in such a way that she didnít want to ever come here again. Not only was I embarrassed, but I wondered if this veterinary phobia might also influence loving owners who would not want to come to a place that frightens pets.
Being a veterinarian and owning my own practice had long been a dream for me. Now I felt terrible that either I or someone I was responsible for had treated this otherwise wonderful animal (and others) in a way that made my supposed haven for animals seem like the dungeon of terror.
That moment was a turning point in my life. Since then I have been looking for ways to make the veterinary visit more fun and less scary for the pets under my care and have been attempting to influence other veterinarians to do the same.
Can you imagine a veterinary practice where virtually all pets like to come in the door? I can now. After years of staff training, and implementing numerous protocols, my wife Susan and I gradually transformed our practice into something I was really proud of. Our basic strategy was to imagine what it was like to visit the hospital from the petís point of view. We had one Husky mix who repeatedly ran away from home to come to the hospital. I later attributed our high practice growth rate largely to managing the petís perception of the visit. If I were to own another practice, I would review every staff veterinarianís performance partially on how much pets liked them.
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