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: