Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Monday, March 8, 2010

The comparative virtues of aspirins, and an Old Country idealist.

Yesterday I got reassurance that if I never treat another animal they will still be well taken care of, I will not be missed. A woman ahead of me at the checkout started telling the cashier that her breeder had recommended this coated aspirin for her dog who had pulled a muscle. She was very proud of her breeder and very pleased with the advice she had received from her over the years. Upstart that I am, I had to pipe in and say that she needs to be very careful about giving aspirin to a dog and that buffered is better than coated because that will just slip through the dog's stomach before it has time to uncoat. I chose to remain undercover as to my profession; it would have been awkward to announce it. She said that mine was very good advice but she would stick with what her breeder had suggested. I keep forgetting that my answer needs to be voted "best answer" before it can be accepted. What kind of dictator do I think I am, to expect members of a free society to accept my word without putting the matter to a vote? A similar level of consumer freedom and empowerment applies to the diagnoses I put forth; these are often perceived as initial offers met with counter-offers fished out on the internet or suggested by breeders or people who own similar animals. As a former prof I explain my reasoning in as much detail as the owner will tolerate. On exhausting days I often feel tempted to choose one or two diagnoses from my differentials list that are most pleasing and comforting to the client; I have never given in to this temptation. As for prognoses, I will err in the "glass is half-empty" direction and prepare the owner for that, cushioning the blow of a sad outcome that I foresaw at least as a possibility. So far I have been able to maintain the dignity of a doctor while still ministering to the customer service aspect of my work. But I will admit that life, a.k.a. that which is not in our control, is often far wiser than some of our best laid plans, and in hindsight I am very glad the woman bought the coated aspirin which will hopefully just slide through her dog's digestive tract.

Yesterday I also got reassurance of another kind. This was on the way to the store with its aspirin encounter. Outside the store is a gas station, and outside this gas station a man was speaking on the payphone very loudly and articulately. He spoke loudly because he was passionate, and because his voice needed to carry across the ocean to Russia where his friend was listening. For once I was not embarrassed to see a fellow Russian in Canada; I was elated and proud. Because the subject of this man's monologue were the flowers he saw in Vancouver. He declared with the solemnity of a nuclear scientist presenting his discovery that never before had he seen such a variety of tulips in bloom. Fifteen minutes later, as we walked out of the store, the man was still there and still speaking. And the chestnuts, he said. A whole street lined with chestnuts! When I translated the eavesdropped conversation to my boyfriend he had to be cynical and suggest that this was all code for drugs and their delivery times, and no wonder he was using a payphone and not a cell phone, etc. But I'm confident the man really was talking about flowers; it's impossible for a Russian to fake this.

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