Since it's November and I'm Americo-centric, I thought I'd write a few thoughts down about giving and receiving thanks. When I was heading down that really long road (you know the one that disappears over the horizon) toward becoming a veterinarian and even having once achieved that dubious goal, never once did I think what kind of thanks I might get from the people I might help. After twenty-one years (or thirty-four years if you count the entirety of time I've spent in this profession in some capacity), however, I can't help but notice a trend. In order of appearance, according to the level of thanks I get in a typical year, it goes something like this:
Thanks for euthanizing pets
Thanks by my wife for doing something (really, anything, that's how appreciative she is)
Thanks for something related to FunnyVet
Thanks from co-workers
Thanks from random encounters with people (foodservers, cashiers, etc.)
Thanks for passing something to someone (salt, newspaper, remote control, etc.) and, coming up a very distant seventh place:
Thanks from owners for making their pets better in some manner
Now, I'm not so egotistical as to not acknowledge that you can look at that list and think to yourself, "Well, he must be lousy at his job." Especially if you look at the bookend 1st and 7th placed "thanks". However, I don't think that those bookends are very much different for anyone else in this profession. In the almost ten years of running FunnyVet, I have been thanked a hundred times more than I ever have in the twenty-one years of being a veterinarian. Now, I'm ignoring the first place "thanks" when I say that. If you're ever going to get thanked as a veterinarian, it seems like it's when you help a patient to die. Really the only medical profession where that happens. It just doesn’t happen in dentistry, podiatry, ophthalmology, etc. When you euthanize a pet you will get cards and sometimes cookies or cake and I often want to tell clients that they are rewarding the wrong behavior. I guess I should accept thanks where I can. And I suppose there are ways to just do euthanasia wrong; ways that wouldn’t get “thanks”. I've even had clients refer their friends to me (even if it is a bit of a drive for them) to euthanize their pets because I do it so well. A bit disconcerting to be known that way. And while it’s certainly not quite why I got involved in this profession it puts pets’ nervousness during their clinic visit into perspective. We really need to get thanked more for all of those pyometra surgeries that pull through, or those blocked cats that the owners sat on for a week that we make better, or the complicated Cushing's/diabetes cases we manage, or the parvo cases, or, or, or.....I mean, the list does go on. Even on those rare occasions we do get thanked (at least, as I've said, for me it's rare to the point of being memorable when it happens) there is often a qualifier of how much it cost or how long it took to get better or how put out they are that they have to treat this long-term condition. Especially the cost.
On a strange note, I've been thanked, sometimes profusely, by our "rabies only" clients. I give the shot, do a little flourish with my signature, and these clients go on about what a great doctor I am and I'm the only one that sees their pet. "Yes, yes," I think, "I give good rabies."
I will admit, also, to not being good at accepting thanks. Maybe that's because I haven't had enough practice. However, I've run into situations where I've had clients on their first visit loudly extol my many virtues (regardless of what their visit was for) and how unlike and better I am than any other veterinarian they have ever seen. These guys make me leery because in almost every instance there is a future consequence. Almost as if karma must maintain the balance. I've had these same clients turn on a dime, like some poorly trained dog, and go on the attack about how lousy I am. And I've found that often they lead with so much praise in order to curry some favor later. And when that doesn't happen for them, well, I guess I'm not the great vet they thought I was. Or the manipulatable vet they thought I was. So, when clients upon first meeting me tell me that I’m the best vet ever? Well, I just think, “I see disappointment in your future.” Now it could be you're out there thinking, "Well, a lot of people don't get "thanked" for doing their job, you ungrateful bastard." And, yes, that's true; I am an ungrateful bastard. However, what I'm commenting on is the severe dearth or drought of thanks. As if thanks were a commodity and there's a terrible depression in our area, people jealously guarding their hoarded stash like survivalists in an atomized thankless wasteland. Am I the only one that sees this or this happens to? Because when you don't get thanked, even in difficult situations, time after time, over the years, it does make you think that what you're doing isn't appreciated or valued. Especially when the complaint department seems ever-full and back-logged. People seem to have a keen radar for perceived slights or feelings of entitlement. I've been thinking of a title for my future memoirs (not to be confused with Renoirs of which I have none). The title I've come up with is "Waiting For My Thank You". Here's the thing though. While I notice the phenomenon, it really doesn't matter to me much any more (he doth protest too much since this blog stands in direct repudiation of that thought). However it is true. It's difficult to have expectations of others. So you end up lowering your expectations, knowing they (probably, statistically) won't thank you for your best efforts. That's ok. I will continue to do the best job I can and take solace that my thanks comes in the non-verbal, self-fulfilling type of healthier pets. And, really, at this point in my "career", such as it is, clients can keep their thanks. I don't really need it. I'm fine with never being thanked again. They can, however, also keep their complaints of which there seems to be a constant wealth and abundance.
Personally I like to thank most everyone. I thank the cashier, the foodserver, my mechanic because he's awesome, my staff because they’re awesomest (and no, I don't care if the spell-check says this isn't a word), even my clients, especially the ones who listen and follow my advice (another rarity - again, may just be me). Perhaps I devalue "thanks" by using it too much. I hope not. The other reason I did this blog this month is I went to vote. Was the first one in line before they opened the doors at 7 AM. One of the people setting up came out to have a conversation and I kind of off-handedly thanked him for being there so early so that I could vote. He looked at me strangely for a beat, then said, "Well, we get paid!" Which then took me aback for a moment and I replied, "I can still thank you. After all it isn't everyone who wants to be up this early to perform this kind of work." And it made me think, maybe other people don't have practice in getting thanked and maybe we all should make more of an effort to appreciate those around us. So, thank you for reading this entire blog to the end. FunnyVet would not be around without your continued support and I thank you for all of the thanks that you have expressed my way.