A Waiting Room Rant

This has been a long time coming, and it’s been a while since I really dusted off the Soapbox for its original purpose – a place for me to complain.

Dear Other Patrons in the Veterinary Clinic Waiting Room,

Re: Public Service Announcement

The waiting room of the vet’s office is neither (a) an on-leash or off-leash play area for pets, nor (b) a petting zoo.

Before you consider me a complete ogre for these statements, let us ponder for a moment about the reality that is the veterinary clinic environment.

Consider a veterinary office part family doctor and part walk-in clinic or emergency room; most of the people waiting in that office with their beloved pets are not exactly thrilled to be there.

For instance, many patients are waiting there in advance of a routine procedure or check-up.  But do not be fooled by the comfort implied by the word “routine”.  Even if you are taking a cat in for shots or a dog to get spayed, there always remains a certain amount of worry – and a definite amount of monetary cost – associated with the trip.  Even the most optimistic people do not look forward to a vet visit.

And the routine stuff is the best it gets!  Because if you’re not there for a planned appointment, you are there because you are concerned your dog is sick or, worse, there has been a medical emergency such as injury or sudden illness.  Those people REALLY don’t want to be there.

So you know what this means?

It means if I am in the waiting room, you can bet I have a lower-than-my-already-low tolerance for idiotic behavior and poor social decorum.

Which brings me to you, and your delusions of fun pet-to-pet or pet-to-people greetings while we wait.

Please be advised: I will not let it happen.

You know how I just explained why people are never excited about going to the vet?  Well now consider the pets themselves.

First of all, you have no idea why pets are there.  So if you even think about asking if our dogs can meet and/or play while we wait, you have another thing coming.

Many pets go to the vet because they are sick or injured.  This means they are not feeling well and, just like people, can be a bit more sensitive and intolerant when under the weather.  So there is no way I want to risk any dog-to-dog greetings no matter how friendly you assure me Fido truly is – it is just too unpredictable.

Even in the event of animals there for “routine” procedures, the veterinary clinic is a weird place to be, and the environment alone can result in bizarre and uncharacteristic behavior.  The smells, the noises, the overall “vibe”… our pets know when something is “off”.  And I bet if you looked for behavioral stress signals such as panting, lip-licking, and yawning, you would notice them in abundance.  Instead, I prefer my dog just sit as calmly as possible unbothered, allowing her to cope with the situation in her own way, without adding even more stress or stimulation.

And THAT is why I won’t let her play with your unruly beagle.  It has nothing to do with my dog being “aggressive”, but everything to do with your apparent lack of awareness and my prioritization of my dog’s mental state.

Speaking of things I won’t allow brings me to my next and last point: please prohibit your unruly children from groping my dog.

If you cannot keep your other human family members under control, they probably should not accompany you to medical appointments – even if it’s for the family dog.

First, remember all that stuff I just said about stress and unpredictable behavior?  Well, if your offspring goes in for an unauthorized full body hug with my dog while I’m distracted, I’m sorry (I’m really not), but any adverse reaction there may be from the dog was completely deserved.

And second?  Well even if we weren’t in the vet’s office, I do not allow children who do not ask to pet my dog.  Ever.  Children should ALWAYS ask first.  And if you can’t teach them that, I will help them to learn the hard way with my own negative reinforcement – better it is from me in verbal form than by way of the teeth of the unsuspecting dog.

I thank you very much for your consideration of these issues and I look forward to somewhat more pleasant interactions in the veterinary clinic’s waiting room in the future.  Though, truthfully, I hope neither of us finds ourselves there if at all possible.

Yours very truly,

Jen K

For further information and an illustration, please see this handy chart from Dr. Sophia Yin:

About ThatJenK
Writing from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. 90% pictures of my dogs; 10% miscellaneous opinions nobody asked for.

15 Responses to A Waiting Room Rant

  1. Well said! Just to add to your rant, on two separate occasions, an ADULT reached over and pet Leah without asking. My Leah is wary of strangers when she is NOT at the vet, and she is an 85 pound mix – why would anyone in their right mind just walk by and pet a strange dog (especially a very large one) while at the vet?

  2. You go Jen!! I am 100% with you on this! I see this type of behavior all the time and I have been known to step in and give the client my 2 cents worth about it too! You never know what to expect when you walk into the vets! 3 things that make cringe that I see everyday: 1. When people bring their dog in without a leash on, or with a flexi-leash that is not locked. 2. When people walk in holding their cat in their arms. 3. When people allow their dog to walk up to any dog that is in the waiting room-the dog could be contagious or aggressive!

    We have dogs that come in that are aggressive towards other animals all the time! Sure we take precautions when they are there but you never know who is going to walk through the door! Some people are very uneducated when it comes to pet safety!

  3. I have the very sick feeling that Alma bit or snapped at a child. I hope I’m wrong!

    And while I agree that you should always exercise caution around a dog you don’t know (and yes, at the vet’s office be twice as cautious), as the saying goes, common sense ain’t so common. Speaking as a mother, just as you’d go berserk if someone disciplined your dog in front of you, you can’t discipline other people’s kids. When children breach any law of etiquette, Miss Manners suggests smiling with your teeth bared and saying in the “right” tone, “Oh, sweetheart, don’t do that, I don’t want you to get hurt.” I can send you a link if you want. 🙂

    • thatjenk says:

      Haha. No, no, the only one who snapped in the waiting room was me, when I had to tell the kid to stop groping Alma (he sneak attacked while I was distracted confirming our info for the receptionist – I wasn’t quite as polite as Miss Manners would likely suggest). Said kid’s mom had previously tested my patience with her flexi-leashed, uncontrolled beagle that, for whatever reason, she thought should be Alma’s playmate.
      … Maybe you should send me that link 🙂

  4. lexy3587 says:

    I would have assumed that children of dog owners would have better manners about dogs! And asking-before-petting is HUGE!
    I think I’ve run into other dogs at the vet once or twice… not often, though, surprisingly. usually they’re already in their exam rooms, or maybe just leaving . I’m also kind of lucky in that Gwynn has a strange love-affair with being at the vet. He is SO excited to see them, it’s baffling, but i’m glad for it.

  5. Kristine says:

    I love One Person’s View’s Miss Manners’ suggestion! I am definitely going to use that if I remember it next time. Miss Manners’ advice is always nothing short of brilliant.

    People are annoying. People in closed, high-stress spaces are even more annoying. My dog can be a pain to control at the best of times. In a vet office? Forget about it. This is why I normally wait outside instead of in the waiting room. It’s just best for all involved.

  6. 2browndawgs says:

    I totally agree. The vet is not a play place. I am glad that we have not had to put up with people thinking their pets or kids should play with our dogs there. I guess we have not run into those people yet. Or maybe our Chessies are off-putting? 😉

  7. Lauren @ Life With Desmond says:

    It’s funny to me that so many trainers and manuals will actually suggest that you got to the vet with your puppy to socialize. I mean, I get that you want to teach your dog the vet is no big deal, but I’m not sure that socializing is quite right.

  8. Lauren @ Life With Desmond says:

    Good points all around. Meanwhile, so many training manuals suggest that you take your puppy to the vet to socialize. I get the idea behind making the vet not scary, but I think socializing is a bit much.

  9. Lauren @ Life With Desmond says:

    whoa, sorry about that second comment. when i first looked at the page again, my comment had disappeared, and i had been typing on my phone so i was super mad and decided to go with a shortened version of it. lol

  10. snoopys@snoopysdogblog says:

    That’s a great info graphic 🙂

    I went to the vets this week, and I’m happy to report it was all good and I got lots of treats, though I was a little nervous – I’ve had shots in there before and I remember….

    Wags to all

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

  11. wantmorepuppies says:

    Well said! The infographic is perfect.

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