They Did What? The Story of Two Very Bad Clients

Patty Khuly Holding Two French Bulldogs

OK, so sometimes I talk out of school. In other words, I’m willing to speak ill of my own typically beloved and thoroughly respected clientele. Now, this breach may sound like a very, very bad thing to you, but I assure you it happens only when they’ve misbehaved in ways that go way beyond the bounds of normal decency. And I always change names, dates and key identifiers to ensure I protect the innocent and indefensible alike.

Here’s the story of Client No. 1.

This new client brought in her son’s cat on his behalf (a bad sign already). Boris was an emaciated, flea-riddled slip of a thing. Old, frail and severely anemic, he looked prepared to take his leave of the world. Except that the only things wrong with him turned out to be fleas and anemia.

Assessment: If we rid Boris of his fleas and add a transfusion of some oxygen-carrying red blood cells, he’ll respond well enough to continue on his life’s normal, nonparasitic, nonanemic trajectory.

As any veterinarian would do with a hospitalized patient, I called Boris' owner's mother to go over the treatment plan and let her know that her estimate would need to increase by $300 due to the price of a (cheap!) blood transfusion. She reluctantly agreed, even though she clearly thought Boris might be better off across the Rainbow Bridge. And since she’d signed all the paperwork at the time of hospitalization, her say-so by phone was enough for me.

Poor, anemic, flea-beset Boris responded beautifully to the treatment. Another life saved. Yet at the time of discharge his owner balked on the payment, claiming he was not responsible for anything beyond the written estimate. This, despite the fact that his mother had represented herself as kitty’s legal custodian, signed all necessary paperwork and OK’d the extra expense by telephone.

Which would have been a scenario we could have lived with except that the owner called up Amex and disputed the entire charge, which meant we didn't get a penny.

Then there’s Client No. 2 to consider: This one is a long-timer. I’ve known him for most of his German Shepherd’s decade-long life. And he’s always been odd but awesomely compliant as a client. Among other things, he once paid more than $10K for his dog’s six root canals after the dog ran into a car and suffered serious trauma to his face.

But times have changed. His “pup” is now well into his second decade and his dog’s orthopedic health has been significantly affected by simple osteoarthritis complicated by mild hip dysplasia and untreated chronic cruciate ligament disease.

Which is not unusual. What is unusual, however, is the fact that this owner, despite the fact that he’s been counseled extensively on the appropriate use of nutraceuticals, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, is now injecting his dog with anabolic steroids he gets from one of the trainers at his gym.

Unbelievable, right? What a confession? What am I supposed to do with that information? Mark my negative reaction on the chart? Include a statement explaining its illegality? Turn him in to the police? What does the law require me to do?

For the record, I documented everything on the chart, asked him to cease and desist, and fired him as a client when it was clear there was no explaining anything to this guy –– much less convincing him that his actions were unbelievably contraindicated in the context of a valid client-patient relationship.

I swear I love my clients most of the time. But then there are the times I don't.

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