Thursday, March 12, 2009

Do the right thing

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest" - Mark Twain

No matter how hard you try, something will go wrong someday. An accident will happen, or you will make a bad decision. How do you handle it? The best thing to do is just take a deep breath and do the right thing. As much as I pride myself on taking exceptional care of the animals I pet sit, sometimes that is just not enough. Worse, even if you think you did the right thing, the client may not agree with you. Then what? 

Eat crow, apologize, and make it right. You may have heard of Rule No. 1 in the retail business: "The customer is always right." And Rule No. 2:  "If the customer is wrong, go back and read Rule No 1."  

I had an experience with this recently, and I am still agonizing over it. Two dogs, age 12 and 14, got into a short tiff, which I broke up. I think Oscar took exception to Angel walking too close to his bed. I checked them both over briefly and saw no blood, so I assumed it was a typical noisy dog scuffle that makes a lot of noise but no injuries.

I was wrong. The next evening, Angel was laying on her bed, and from where I sat, I could see that there was a cut under her chin between the neck folds. So I looked at it, and it was a pretty ragged tear, scabbed over. I had missed it. I knew it could get infected, but she felt fine, and it looked okay. I washed it off. I had some leftover antibiotics and gave her some. 

Here it was, Saturday night at 8 pm, the owners were returning the next morning, and I didn't think it was an emergency. So I didn't run her to the vet. If I had seen it right after the incident, I would have, because I knew she'd need antibiotics. When the owner arrived the next morning, I showed him the cut and gave him the pills. I offered to pay the vet bill if they took her to the vet. 

That night, the wife called and was pretty upset, for two reasons. One: How had I let this happen to her dog? Two: Why didn't I take her to the vet?  

Issue Number 1: There was no way to predict the bite, and I think things like this are just going to happen between dogs occasionally. I was right there and broke it up within seconds. I had no reason to expect the other dog to go after Angel for any reason. They had lived together peacefully for two days. That doesn't make it acceptable.

The owners have a point – how can they trust their old dog to be safe at my house? I can't guarantee it, but I can certainly do everything in my power to prevent another incident. For sure, Oscar won't be returning. Dogs that can't get along just can't stay here. If something happens, I separate them for the remainder of their visit, which I did this time. 

Issue Number 2: I just screwed up. I didn't see the injury. It should have had stitches, but by the time I saw it, it was too late to stitch. I should have gone to the vet, even though it wasn't a life and death emergency, and returned their dog to them with no issues they needed to deal with. I probably shouldn't have given her the antibiotics I had on hand, either. The vet bill was $200, and I will pay it. 

Will they be back? I don't know. But I learned a hard lesson.

Mistakes happen. Learn from mine. You can only do your best. Think like the customer who loves this animal, and take the best possible care of the pet and the people.

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