Sunday, 19 March 2006

Neither empathy nor sympathy

I have no intention of using the death of my poor pussycat as blog fodder for the next two years – I prefer to grieve in private, but I must mention it again just this once because I need to slap the person who made the whole traumatic experience even worse.

The vet’s receptionist.

Shouldn’t a basic requirement for such a job be that the person is capable of some measure of empathy and then sympathy towards other people? The silly girl we had the misfortune of dealing with on that terrible day displayed neither. While my partner and I were huddled in a corner of the small waiting room trying to decide the fate of my desperately ill cat, she was having a very loud and animated conversation with two people who’d brought their big dog obviously for a routine check-up, frequently bursting into deafening laughter. She'd seen us come out of the surgery red-eyed and distressed and she knew why we were still there, waiting. At 6pm – the appointed hour – she hustled us (g-d forbid she should go home a few minutes late) back into the surgery. She assisted the vet and attended the passing of my cat and remained cheerful throughout. Her parting shot for us was, “’bye!”, in an upbeat tone of voice.


  1. I'm SO sorry about Patsy's death, J. :-( You were privileged to be each other's traveling companions in this world. I'll be keeping you in my thoughts...

  2. Oh, K, what a lovely thing to say! Thank you. :-)

  3. stupid receptionist *slap*

    (you did better than my father when our family dog was being put down - he couldn't bear it, so stayed in the car, whilst my mother and sister went in)

    ongoing ((cyberhugs))


  4. Thank you very much, UC!

    I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn't been there to try and comfort my poor kitty for the last time.

  5. Your cat was beautiful. Patsy was lucky to have an owner who loved and cared about her so much

    Unfortunately people in Vet's offices get burnt out the same way people in regular doctor's offices to.

    I can understand your pain, but that woman was probably just trying to keep herself from feeling anymore. The red eyes were a give-away.

  6. MEGA SLAP for her!!!She should be talked to privately by the vet about her sensitivity toward owners and pets.

  7. You should go back to the vets office and get that receptionist FIRED! How dare she not be as miserable and you!

    Tell her to read your notepad!

  8. Maybe she had some kind of disorder that caused her to not know the probable meaning of a person weeping when their pet is sick and visiting the vets. I think sympathy and empathy are often a problem when people have to become hardened to the sorrows of their job. And sometimes a consequence of self centred stupid people not being bothered to care.

  9. Tinkerbell and JvS, she's a very young woman who can't possibly be burnt out yet. Her very youth may be the problem, but it doesn't excuse it. If she's not naturally sensitive she should be trained and told to at least be quiet when there are soon-to-be-bereaved people around and respect their grief. If she's not capable of not looking and sounding cheerful at all times she should get a job dealing with machines not living things!

    Thank you, Tinkerbell, I hope I did my best for Patsy.

    CH, absolutely!

    Anonymous, I will write a note to the vet about the receptionist's behaviour. Let's hope she doesn't upset more people.

    JvS, stupidity probably has a part to play in it too.

  10. when my friend's cat was run over she took him to vet's wrapped in a blanket. the poor animal was howling in pain, there was blood everywhere and my friend was in tears. the receptionist asked for qualification of the emergency before trying to get a free vet to help them. this mostly consisted of her asking things like "has it been run over then?" "is it breathing?" "do you think it's dying?". charming.

    i had a dog put to sleep four years ago and am now in a place where i can clearly see it was the best thing for him. it still hurts a little though.

  11. I am so sorry to hear about this extremely sad news. I just want to give you a huge hug and that my thoughts are with you((((((((((((((J)))))))))))))))))

  12. So sad, I'm really sorry. One day, the receptionist will be in the same or similar position to you, be it their cat or a relative and then they'll understand how crass they've been in the past. I still think a phone call to the vets is in order tho'.

  13. SL, that story is absolutely terrible; your friend must have been in such a state!

    I'm sorry you've been through this too. I don't expect it ever goes away.

    *hugging you back, N* Thank you so much for thinking of me.

    My sentiments exactly, S! One day.... Thank you very much for your kind thoughts.

  14. Oh, I'm so sorry about your cat! It hurts so much to lose a beloved pet. I know you "see" her everywhere in the house. Sometimes you can even "feel" them jump on the bed at night after they've left you.

    The receptionist must never have loved an animal. Sad for her, and sad for the people who need sympathy when losing a loved one.

  15. Thank you so much, TLP. Yes, I do see her everywhere in my small flat and I do feel her against my waist when I wake up in the morning: she used to come and sleep with me after roaming about the flat for a couple of hours. I still sleep in the same position so as not disturb her.

    Would you get a job at a vet's if you didn't like animals? My partner says the receptionist was still very cheerful when she phoned today to let us know we could collect Patsy's ashes. Luckily for the woman, it was someone else - more mature and considerate - who was there when we called at the vet's: I don't know whether I would have been able to resist slapping her if she'd handed me the box with a smile.


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