Pet care: Managing a veterinary staff, effigies and all - Albuquerque Journal

Pet care: Managing a veterinary staff, effigies and all

Fourth in a series.

Workflow during the infant months of my veterinary practice was intermittent but with time we got busier. Martha needed help at the desk. In the treatment area I’d become concerned about Amos’ increasingly frantic demeanor. So I hired Kendra Franklin, a promising young woman, who turned out to be interesting. But beyond our new staff training responsibilities it was Princess, the fishhook-swallowing poodle, who remained Priority One.

When I was satisfied that our surgery patient was stable I called Mom and the kiddos from my desk. I shared the good news that we expected their pupster to make a full recovery but that we would need to monitor her for a couple more days. Their curly coated girl was ready for visitors; the offending foreign body was ready for their scrapbook.

After finishing the call it was time to chart the evening’s adventure in Princess’s medical record. I pulled open the top drawer of my desk to reach for a pen and found more than a writing instrument. Staring up at me was a carefully constructed effigy of, well, me. Complete with bushy hair and moustache, along with the requisite straight pin through my chest, this was an unusual expression of – office politics?

I relish challenging cases. It’s hard work but improving lives, sometimes saving them, keeps me motivated. Over my years as a veterinary hospital owner I found staff management to be a lot harder. When it was good it was very good; when it was bad it was horrible. In school they don’t teach us about voodoo or negotiating the distractions of pranks and hexes.

I’d been confident in my leadership skills, working with Martha and Amos. When we added Kendra I expected more of the same. If she was behind the mystery poppet her subterfuge was a failure; I experienced no stab of chest pain. I could accept a Wiccan on the staff but leaving cryptic surprises in my desk presented a management dilemma. Install surveillance cameras? (Not in the ’80s) Call Dick Tracy?

Next week: The Feds.

⋄ For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet questions on or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109


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