"I didn't eat the sandwich Daddy packed me for lunch," my son told me one night at bedtime. "So, when Daddy was unpacking my lunchbox, he gave the bread to the dogs."
(Pause, for dramatic effect.)
"He gave, like, a WHOLE SLICE to Walter!" As he said this last bit, he fixed his eyes on my face, waiting for my expected volcanic reaction. I did not disappoint him.
You see, I had been watching our dog, Walter, getting a bit thick through the middle. I also had been very vocal with my family about it.
For months, I kept making comments about Walter's weight and how confused I was that, although I was carefully measuring his food, watching to see that he ate only his own, and wasn't giving him treats or snacks, he was clearly packing on pounds.
(Okay, in his case, maybe A pound - which for Walter, is huge.) Obviously, as I constitute only one of the beings who have power over the food distribution in this household, I am not in complete control of the calories going into Walter's gullet.
On one memorable occasion, my husband happened to be watching as I portioned the evening meal for the dogs.
"Oh, you MEASURE it?" he said, as if this were a brand new concept.
I was speechless. Once recovered, I took a moment to demonstrate, offering visual effects and hand motions worthy of the "Price Is Right" ladies, the proper way to measure the allotment of food to be given to each dog and the disbursement of the food thereof. Problem solved, or so I thought.
Like any good manager, a few weeks after our discussion, I performed a follow-up on my dog food allotment assignment by quizzing the responsible parties on how much each dog was to receive for each meal.
The children aced the test. Guess who failed? The correct answer was a half-cup for each dachshund, two cups for Westley (my parents' golden retriever). His answer for Westley was correct.
For the dachshunds it was, "Uh, like a cup or a half-cup something like that."
1. That is not measuring.
2. He scores a 50 percent on my quiz.
3. Walter is getting (depending on the day and cafeteria server) roughly TWICE the calories per day that he should.
4. Walter is very happy to clean all the food provided out of his bowl, and ask for more. Always. And more always is better in his eyes.
Now, why on earth would I air my embarrassing dirty laundry for all to read? Because I'm hoping that by printing this in the paper, acquaintances, clients and family members who read this will remind my husband whenever they see him that it's HALF a cup of food for the dachshunds.
Repetition, repetition, repetition.
As is my way, I also write of this to illustrate a point. This time, the point is all about compliance - the bane of the health professional's existence. Like when your dental hygienist asks if you floss every day.
Of course you do, right? Or when your doctor prescribed the exercises for your lower back pain - you did them faithfully, right? And you never have leftover antibiotics, because you take every dose at exactly the time you're supposed to until they are finished. Very good. If all that's true, go to the head of the class.
In reality, scientific studies on the topic suggest that while approximately 80 percent of people finish their entire prescription, only about 30 percent take the doses at the proper times.
For some drugs like antibiotics, compliance may be the difference between getting better and staying sick.
Compliance in my field is roughly defined as an owner's willingness to follow their veterinarian's prescribed course of treatment, but it amounts to more than just willingness, as far as I'm concerned.
I'm a realist.
Sometimes we doctors unwittingly stack the deck against compliance.
I may be a health professional, but I'm also a mom and a wife. I work a full time job, then come home to a nutty, tossed-up house with barking dogs, squabbling children, fur all over the carpet and cats that refuse to be ignored, leaping from tabletop to tabletop in the midst of the melee.
Don't even get me started with the tortoise, turtle and fish responsibilities. Laundry, dishes, meal preparations, shopping for various supplies for home, school, office, errands galore. And the chaos just starts all over the next day. Now, add in a medication that must be poked down the unwilling cat's throat every 8 hours on an empty stomach - yeah, right.
Now, I tend to take people at their word. I think most veterinarians are like that.
So, when owners come back complaining that the course of medications prescribed didn't work, or only worked for a short time, we tend to take them seriously and look for another solution.
We might order a bunch of new tests, try new medications, re-evaluate the case from different perspectives, or call in the experts. Much of that may not be necessary - if folks were straight with us from the beginning.
How refreshing it is to hear, "You know, doc, the medications were just too hard to get in - and we weren't very successful doing it."
Now, at least I know it wasn't that we were going down the wrong diagnostic or treatment path - we just have to be cleverer at finding a way to administer the meds to the patient.
So, here's the thing: If your veterinarian prescribes a medication that you know you won't be able to administer as directed, or after all good intentions, you find it is impossible to do - TELL HIM! Better to be up-front than keep him wondering where to go next.
Sometimes there are many newfangled ways to administer some types of medications that may be a better solution than more traditional routes, for instance, a few medications can be formulated into transdermal gels that can be applied to the animal's skin instead of struggling with giving pills to, say, a fully-armed cat.
Sometimes, you'll still be faced with oral medications, but there may be tricks to administering it to your animal you haven't tried - and a quick lesson in the veterinary office will be life-altering for you and your pet.
Sometimes medications can be formulated to taste good even to your finicky cat.
I feel the need to underscore that nobody (even the veterinarian wife of a veterinarian) is immune to poor compliance issues.
There are quite a few perfectly sound treatment regimes for various ailments that I would hesitate to prescribe for my own animals.
Because I know my chaotic household and life.
I can't even get my husband to measure HALF A CUP of food for the dachshunds until I finally installed a cup that ONLY measures half a cup - do you really think he'd be able to remember eye drops every six hours?
Heck, I couldn't, either.
Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital.