Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A worthwhile thing

Last week Tess saw the vet. It was her first nothing-is-actually-wrong-with-the-dog general "wellness" visit, even though she's 3 1/2 years old. 

As most of you know I'm a vet student. Do you think it's odd that I don't blindly follow the recommendations of the various professional organizations statements bombarding us students? 

Yearly annuals for all pets! 

Feed store vaccines from pet stores are useless!

Tarter removal not done under general anesthesia is fraud!

The medications you get at online pharmacies are tainted!

Dog foods are all the same!

I think that a lot of the recommendations are manipulative - we tell owners to do this because it causes them to do this and that's the real reason they need to that, but their brains (and yours, you poor little vet student) just simply can't handle the complexities of why so don't bother explaining it. 

In truth, I find the small animal veterinary world a little insulting after residing in the large animal one for so long. 

It's not just the veterinary world - it's the drug companies too. When sitting through small animal sector drug company presentations, in general the reasons I hear why a certain thing should be prescription or why the new product is better than the existing ones on the market is because of control. It's something the pet owner can only get at the vet. There may be other reasons (efficacy, safety etc) but these (at least in my experience) are rarely emphasized. Contrast that to large animal sector drug companies. In general new products are presented as making up for the deficiencies (ease of administration, better working etc.) of the current products on the market and the emphasis is on client education. 

I dislike being manipulated and controlled, and that has been my overwhelming experience when I take my dogs and cats to a small animal vet. 

The final nail in the coffin of why my pets don't get an annual "wellness" exam is that I'm tired of paying for physical exams that never actually happen. 

If I bring my seemingly healthy happy (friendly) dog into the vet office and a physical exam does not occur - not just a cursory exam of "is this animal healthy enough for the meds/vaccines today" but an exam that asks the question "is there something wrong minor today that we can catch before it's a major issue in a year" - then what I've done is pay a fee to have a medication (such as heartworm preventative) dispensed.

Not cool, especially because one of the heartworm medications is a combination drugs that are easily obtained over the counter for large animals - just not for small animals. 

So why is this post titled a "worthwhile" thing? Because while doing a small animal externship locally over the last couple of weeks, I *finally* found a small animal vet that I felt made it worth my time and money to pay for a yearly exam on my dog. 


She actually DID a physical exam. Yes, even the distasteful parts that are relatively unpleasant for both dog and vet, like getting a good look down the ears.  

Even if she hadn't found anything I would have been satisfied, knowing that there was nothing major I had missed, there was no additional procedures (like ear cleaning) I should be doing throughout the year. A verdict of "everything looks ok" when things were actually looked at is as valuable as finding something wrong. 

But she DID find something. 

In an otherwise beautiful ear (Melinda, you have to take a look down her ears. They are the best you'll see! - we see a lot of nasty ears) were nasty little foxtails. They hadn't been there long, but they didn't just get there yesterday.

Potential problem averted. I had no idea they were there - no head shaking, head tilt, scratching, smell, or debris.

Since I was already at the vet, I went ahead and asked for a Heartworm preventive medication (it's cheap and I had already paid for the exam so why not?!) and a new oral tick preventive since Tess is getting more and more itchy and uncomfortable with topicals.

Drug companies and those lamenting the lack of clients willingness to come to the vet office, you've got it all wrong. Forcing clients to show up at the vet to get the fanciest preventive medications and vaccines is not the secret to getting the educated and finance-conscious clients to show up at the vet and part with their money.

Increasing the value of the exam will (but you actually have to do one first).

As a bonus, findings during the physical exam will likely result in some sort of additional procedure/revenue.

And, since the clients are already in the office, they are more likely to purchase those fancy products.

Finally, perceiving the experience as a good value and a "smart decision" will result in better compliance.

As a manager I quickly learned that most complaints I had about the employees working for me likely originated in me, not them - communication, approach, philosophy. I can't help but wonder how much of the struggles I hear voiced in the small animal veterinary industry in particular is due to this. As a student, I'm not "in the trenches" dealing with these issues on an every day basis, but I do get to watch a LOT of vets interact with their clients as a "fly on the wall" and I can tell you what works and what doesn't. Combine that with my own experience on the other side of the table as a critical-thinking, skeptical client, and I think it gives insight into what policies and procedures are likely to help, not hurt, the business of the small animal veterinary hospital.

Friday, October 24, 2014

For Sale

Tess: Cute puppies in for-sale ads sell tack!

Mel: Puppies only serve as reminders to the potential buyer that items potentially have non-equine hair on them and chew marks.

Tess: Oh. Well. I think this particular item would make an excellent dog bed. It's white like me AND has fleece. 

Mel: This chunk of fiber and fleece cost twice as much as your dog bed.

Tess: Well, I'll just sit here next to it so you can contemplate your decision.

Mel: Go Away!

Tess: Isn't the name of this blog "say YES to me". You've been saying "no" an awful lot...

Mel: I'm about to post this picture and not elaborate which furry white thing is for sale.

Tess: I've suddenly remembered pressing duties elsewhere....


(Less than 12 hours later)

Mel: So...the pad sold. To a face book friend that apparently hadn't seen my gorgeous flyer which was sprinkled liberally over the web. But saw this post.

Tess: Told you so. Cuteness sells tack!

Mel: I'm pretty sure good prices sell tack.

Tess: You're welcome.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Unlocking a new feature

Why Tess,

I didn't realize you had been retained as my confidential document shredder.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Can we?

I've successfully dragged myself out of bed several times over the last couple of weeks early enough for either a run or a pony ride. Pony rides usually win because in my current rotation I have a long enough lunch I can run at school.

This is very disappointing to Tess because being my clinical year in vet school, she no longer goes to school with me on a regular basis.  

So, this morning I chose the running shoes over riding boots and Tess was invited along.

I needed some pics for an upcoming review on the orange mud pack so I decided some pre-run pics were in order.

This is my morning face before the trifecta of coffee, run, or shower.
Tess did not understand this preoccupation with pictures.

Is something wrong? lick lick lick......

Soon the strain of too much delay before the run took it's toll.....

Rapidly approaching critical time where either coffee or run MUST take place....

...and we've reached the breaking point. CRAZY EYES

I'm doing a short taper for a marathon on Sunday, which isn't a goal race but a training run for my mid October 50 miler. I've been a little disappointed how beat up my feet and legs have felt during this week while tapering and today was the last short easy run I'll do. The plan was to do it in my cushy shoes (Lone Peak Altra 1.5's) which feel good at the end of long runs but make me feel slow and sluggish on "regular" runs so I tend to not put the miles in them I should during training.

Love that I have this area for running less than a quarter mile from my house
Tess was (predictably) behaving as if the trail run was the best thing that was going to happen to her all day and I was trying to reassure myself that I *always* second guess my taper and to obsess over feet or legs was not productive.

As usual, Tess was the one that saved the run.

First, she reminded me that I had a phone. And it's primary function on a TAPER run should be to TAKE PICTURES.

Not worry about how pauses and distractions would result in a really slow recorded pace and reduce mileage on the app.....

Second, she asked to go down to the river. 

Our normal loop has river access right off the trail and doesn't require us to go out of our way.  However, that trail is currently impacted by the levee construction so I've been choosing alternate trails where river access isn't as convenient.

Tess is usually happy to go down whatever trail, but today she stood at an intersection of a river turn off and very plainly asked "this morning can we go down to the river?"

So I made a decision. That today was a perfect day to detour to the river. Because of all days, 2 days prior to a marathon is NOT a time to worry about pace or mileage.

So I said yes.

Tess couldn't believe it.

She ran back and checked in with me several times to make sure I was still heading down the river trail.

And if there was time to go down to the river and enjoy the sunrise, there was time for more pictures.

An "eh" run turned into a great run, thanks to Tess.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All sorts of musings, including why Tess doesn't do agility

It doesn't stay green here in the part of California very long where I live, and so I viewed the recent rains and slick trails as an opportunity for a relaxed run and beautiful photoshoot, rather then bemoaning the slow pace such trails demanded.

 Tess is the most entertaining running partner - watching her bound her way through/over/across terrain and brush is just incredible.
 Beyond the sheer beauty of watching such athleticism, it's the sheer JOY that radiates from her that keeps me heading out the door day after day.
 Really, who can resist this face?
 She spends our runs in constant motion.
 It's not easy to catch a white dog careening through the trails.
 Today, knowing I would be faced with slick mud and beautiful scenery opted to take the "real" camera out and try to grab photos that captured Tess at her best - running the trails.
That green thing around her neck is a leash. I decided that she could carry her leash today instead of balling it up in my hand, since I brought a camera. 
 I've been doing my annual sort and archive and photos and realized...I take a LOT of pictures of Tess.
 In fact, it's a close race to see whether Farley or Tess wins that contest.
 Tess is more photogenic.  Farley attempts to ruin the shot but chewing with her mouth open, closing her eyes, or by showing off her "assets" to her advantage - making her head look bigger than it is even in real life and her butt smaller.  *sigh*
 Tess on the other hand has learned that sometimes I take pictures. And the longer she stands there ignoring me and not being too naughty, the faster she gets released to run again.
When Minx, my first horse died, I learned that no matter how many pictures you think you took (and there were far far far more pictures of Minx taken than I would admit to family and friends!) there's never enough once they leave us.
Tess is only 3 years old, but who knows what the next year, week, or day might bring? She's perfect right now.  Reliable off leash. Happy about life. Happy about what she perceives as her job.
 Much like I would love to freeze Farley in time right now as a 15 year old for the rest of her life, Tess is freezable right now as a 3 year old.
 Old enough to know better, young enough to still be able to DO.
We aren't doing agility because she doesn't want that to be her job.  It's not that she isn't athletic enough (she is). It's not that she's not smart enough (she is). It isn't that we didn't put the time in to learn handling, obstacles etc (we did).  And it's not that she wasn't obedient enough (she mechanically did what was asked).
Here's the problem: She finds no joy on the agility course. It's like taking a person who is meant to be outdoors in the sunshine and giving them an accounting job and locking them in a basement with no windows. They may love numbers, love the pay, and even appreciate the controlled temperature and free coffee provided. But sometimes that isn't enough.
It's different on the trail. When I look at these pictures, I don't see a dog who feels constrained by the rules that are placed on her when we are on the trail.  She embraces them and adopts them wholeheartedly as her own.
 She does figure 8's in front of me. She keeps an eye on me. She checks in often both visually and physically.  When she sees a person or dog in the distance she automatically comes to a heel at my side and holds it until we are past it. She's free to run, sniff, jump, and leap as she wishes - the more freedom I give her, the more she chooses to look to me for direction.
 Gone is the dog that spent our training time together stress sneezing/blinking/yawning/panting/bolting. We still learn tricks, but now I can use rewards that really motivate her - even if they are not "approved" for agility.  She doesn't want to work for her toys - she wants to work for food and for freedom and I respect that. 
I've learned some of my best lessons about Joy, Stress, and not asking someone or something to give beyond what they can offer, from Tess.
And then we are back at the car.  Tess is cold and shivery and done with the wet weather for now - and I'm done with the heavy thinking and am ready for bed :).

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Tess is my little shadow.

Don't believe me, take a look at my HORSE blog and see how many pictures she manages to cram herself into.

Still not convinced? 

Trying to showing off my vaccuming skillz?

Tess is there.

 She's not the only culprit. Showing off my new pack, Harley decided to show off her bombing skillz.

 It's not like Tess is in danger of lacking for pictures.

Sometimes we take more pictures in "the tree".

 We take bad selfies
And good selfies

We still take group pictures
(and nope - still haven't gotten that perfect picture where me, the horse, the dog, AND the camera are behaving themselves)

And yes, she still goes running and riding with me and plays in the river.

And sometimes I still have to embarass her and make her do something like wear Christmas bells.

We are coming up on Tess's 3 year birthday, which according to this chart makes her the same age I am.

And since I still feel young and curious and active, it's no mystery to me why Tess feels the same. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014


Lately Tess has been VERY excited when she sees kitty cats.

It makes me wonder whether she misses having a kitty, since Mickie passed away.

It's interesting how in the last year or so she's grown very opinionated about things she LOVES.

The first couple of years were defined by her telling me what she HATED (grooming, leashes, nails, being cuddly, teeth brushing).

But now, she's much more likely to communicate what she WANTS.  Kitty cats have joined the ranks of going on horse rides, runs, bikes, car rides, and bird watching.