There are certain types of “permanent records” in life that we rely on, yet take for granted. These things include our permanent record in school, our driver’s license information, our medical and dental records, the title on our home, and all of our banking records. For instance, when we get a bill in the mail, we assume that the company sending the bill has carefully calculated how much we have spent by referring to our credit card record. When we go into the hospital for surgery, we assume that the chart hanging at the end of the bed has our complete medical history. Without such records, life would be chaotic, yet we rarely give them a second thought. We just assume they are available, updated and correct, because there are responsible professionals in charge of maintaining them. The same, however, is not always true when it comes to our pets’ medical records. The following is a true story.
My dog takes monthly heart-worm prevention medicine, and along with my cats, gets flea control ointment. I usually purchase a three-month supply for each pet, then take the empty boxes into my Veterinarian’s office for refills when needed. Last June, I was near the office, and decided to stop in for the refills, even though I did not have the empty prescription boxes.
There was a new receptionist at the desk with that dark orange hair color that only a botched home dye job can produce. She did not even flinch when I came in, rudely chatting on the phone with her feet propped up on the desk. I stood for a good five minutes, not-so-patiently, listening to her obviously non-work-related conversation. After a few “uh, ums,” and some rattling of my keys, she finally noticed me. She rolled her eyes and told the caller that she had to hang up because, “I got a lady here.” She looked at me without a greeting, and said, “Yeah?” I took a deep breath and asked for my refills, explaining that I had a standing prescription under the name Kelly Fuller.
The orange-haired girl typed my name into her computer and slowly scrolled through an endless list of names that started with the letter “F.” She then moved down to the “K’s” and looked through a million more names, before returning to the “F’s” again. My patience had worn thin when she asked me to repeat my name, and kept scrolling. After what seemed like an eternity, she then asked me to spell my name. I was irritated at this point, and spelled it, “F, U” pause “L, L, E, R.” Subtle, but nasty, I know.
The orange haired girl then asked, “Have you ever been here before?” Yes, I answered through clenched teeth, and told her that I had been bringing my three pets there for the past few years. “Nope,” she said, contradicting me. “We don’t have you in our system. Are you sure you came here before?” I reiterated the fact that I had been carting two cats and one large dog there for the past three years. I told her that I have the prescription boxes at home with this Veterinary office printed on it. Again, she said, “Nope. We don’t show that you’ve been here.” She then sat staring at me, as if she was waiting for me to leave. “Would you like me to go get the boxes?” I asked, perturbed. “If you want, but I still can’t refill them since you haven’t been here before,” she replied, and turned away from me toward the phone.
Infuriated at this point, I semi-calmly asked if there was a manager I could speak to. To my utter amazement, she replied, “Nope,” and dismissed me completely. She picked up the telephone and began to dial. At first I assumed she must be calling a manager, but instead, she said, “Hey girl, I’m back,” and resumed her previous personal call.
It took every ounce of restraint I had not to reach over the desk and strangle this terribly rude, orange, incompetent employee. “Excuse me,” I said rather loudly. “I need to speak to someone in charge.” She shot me a look of disgust and became visibly annoyed herself. She rolled her eyes again, saying, “Hold on” into the phone. She then turned to me and said, “The manager is on vacation until Monday and the Vet is in surgery.” Before she could dismiss me again, I demanded to speak to someone else.
Just then a tall, gangly, pimple-faced teen came out from the back room. I had never seen him there before, so for all I knew, he could have been the cage cleaner. The orange miscreant called him over and asked, “Can you help this lady?” She then looked his way and added, “He’s the Assistant Manager.” Honest to goodness, I saw her wink at him as she said it! I just about died right there in the Veterinary office. I had never dealt with such an unbelievably rude, inconsiderate person in my life.
I was hot! I explained to the so-called Assistant Manager that I had come in for a prescription refill, but the receptionist could not find any records on any of my pets. He flippantly said that their computer system had recently been updated and my records may have gotten “lost in the transition.” I expressed my complete dissatisfaction with his answer, and said I certainly hoped that was not the case. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “sh - - happens.” Unwilling and unable to restrain myself one second longer, I scribbled down my name and number and told him to have the manager call me as soon as he returned from vacation. I left the office in a huff. So much for a quick stop in to get my refills.
I stewed about the situation all weekend, fretting about the possibility of not having any vaccination, allergy, surgery, or medication records on my beloved pets. I had always been extremely adamant about getting all of the family’s medical records, including the pets’ records, in-hand before we relocated to another state. I never relied on the mail or asked for the records to be sent via facsimile after we moved. I always wanted to hand-deliver each manilla folder to each new doctor and Veterinarian as I met them. I was a pro, since we had relocated three times in the six years of my dog’s life. Now my worry outweighed my irritation.
I was fairly certain that the orange haired receptionist had thrown away my message for the Manager as soon as she saw me cross the threshold, so I didn’t wait for a call. On Monday morning, I drove right back up to the Veterinary office, hoping to get some answers. By the grace of God, the regular receptionist was sitting behind the desk. Of course she had no idea that I had been in previously, because no message had ever been left. And, no, the manager would not be in until noon.
Summoning all the calm that I could muster, I explained the problem to her, giving a detailed description of the poor customer service I had received from her co-workers. She gave a knowing smile and said she’d report the incident to the manager. Then she too tried to look up my name, and came up blank. She did remember my dog, since he was only one of two White German Shepherds seen at the office, however, she could not find my records. She corroborated the fact that the computer system had recently been updated, and confirmed my suspicion that there was no assistant manager employed at the office. She took down a detailed message and assured me that the real manager would call me as soon as he came in. I left in a state of quiet panic and waited.
Sure enough, it turned out that my nightmare wasn’t over. The manager called several hours later and spoke to me, apologizing for the accidental loss of all three of my pets’ medical information. They had completely lost the valuable records. I was devastated. Things like this were not supposed to happen. I was mad, but mostly I felt irresponsible for not having any copies at home. I was also very concerned about when my pets were due for their next vaccinations. The Veterinarian tried to determine what shots would be needed and when, and offered to give me a discount, but I was done with them. I realized that the loss was not intentional, but any place of business that would hire an employee like the orange monster would not ever see me return.
There are two things I learned from this experience. One, I know my limit when it comes to strangling rude employees, which is three seconds more than I withstood Orangie and her cohort. And two, I know how important it is to keep and maintain important records. I immediately found a new Veterinarian and decided to find a new way to keep track of all of my family’s (including my pets) important health records.
My choices were plentiful. There are a large number of computer software programs available for keeping records. There are also clubs, societies and other pet organizations that offer record keeping services. Finally, there are websites available to register pet records online so they are readily available to animal hospitals, pet sitters, groomers, kennels, family and friends in case of an emergency. These websites will organize the information into a printable format to be used for travel as well. You can add as much detail as you want, including extra information such as your pet’s reactions to medications, last appointment at the groomer, his quirks, likes and dislikes.
Whatever you choose, (I chose the website) knowing that your records are safe and in your control, will give you the sense of security you need. So be prepared with a worry-free record keeping system, because no matter how competent, educated, trained, friendly or loving your Veterinarian may be, “sh - - happens.”
Kelly McCardy-Fuller is a freelance writer/editor residing in Westminster, Maryland with her husband and two children. She obtained a degree in Journalism, Summa Cum Laude, from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. After that, she traveled extensively, working on United States Naval Bases as a Hotel Manager, all the while working on her freelance writing career. Settling down to raise a family, Kelly has been editing and ghostwriting for a Neuropsychologist at Behavioral, Medicine & Health Psychology in Ventura, CA for the past eight years. She has had articles published on various websites, in newspapers, magazines, and medical journals from coast to coast, and recently finished her first book, which is awaiting publication. To contact Kelly, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org