When Boomer was a puppy, he got parvo, & I took him to a new veterinary hospital in my area called Gentle Vets. I continued care there because Boomer obviously adored the staff & the doctors, & later brought my timid Madeline to them & was impressed by Dr. Edhlund’s kind handling. I spent almost $1000 to have her spayed there, & still consider it money well spent because I know they made her experience as nontraumatic as possible.
Some time ago I wrote about a girlfriend’s humiliating experience at the hands of a notorious employee at Kalihi Pet Clinic. I never thought I would have anything but praise to write about Gentle Vets, but as of today I have my own personal bad experience to share.
Recently, Gentle Vets hired a couple of new veterinarians, & Boomer & I got to meet one of them today.
Boomer’s parvo at 13 weeks pretty much destroyed our dog park socialization opportunities, & although Boomer is exceedingly gentle with all three of my girls at home (one of them a cat), he doesn’t like any other dogs. Our neighbor’s dogs haven’t made the best impression on him. This past weekend my brother & I decided to have Boomer visit his 3 dogs, albeit under very controlled circumstances. As luck would have it, there was an error & Boomer & Gunner had a scuffle. We reintroduced them later when they were calm & they did ok, but Boomer had a few scrapes & cuts from the initial blunder. I peroxided & Neosporin’d them for the next few days & most of them dried up nicely, but on Monday noticed Boomer had a bit of wattle under his chin that had not been there before.
On Tuesday it looked worse. I did a little reading & decided it was very likely an abscess, which would require antibiotics & possible lancing. Boomer was in low spirits, although he was still eating & drinking, & his swelling was sensitive to the touch. I gave him 1000mg of cephalexin & spent the evening trying not to freak out.
On Wednesday Boomer was back to normal moodwise & no longer tender, but the swelling looked bigger. My brother said I’d better take him to the vet.
I was able to get a 1:30 appointment at Gentle Vets. We showed up at 1:20 & were seen immediately by the VA, but then waited over 10 minutes until Dr. Sakamoto showed up at 1:40.
As soon as he walked in, Boomer hated him. Boomer began growling, although he eventually stopped when I scolded him & put him in the corner. I was shocked. Boomer loves people. The only other human Boomer disliked was some homeless guy who was bothering my friend Terrence. Boomer’s met dozens of people & been great with them, & Gentle Vets had always been somewhere he enjoyed visiting because he loved everyone there as well.
Dr. Sakamoto seemed mildly annoyed as he questioned me about Boomer’s injuries, & once Boomer was muzzled told the VA, “Let’s put him in the back room. He’ll probably be easier to deal with without her there” & then they proceeded to drag Boomer away (Boomer looked back at me with a panicked expression). He didn’t even bother to address me. “So I’ll just stay here?” I asked, & the VA nodded at me.
Once in the back room, I heard scuffling & a small dog barking frenziedly. Apparently Dr. Sakamoto’s Jack Russell terrier was running around loose back there. Brilliant. Boomer was already agitated, & now they had raised the stakes. There was more scuffling, & after a minute or two Dr. Sakamoto emerged from the back room & loudly declared, “That dog is totally unmanageable.” Boomer had gotten his muzzle off & wouldn’t let Sakamoto touch him. He had also emptied his anal sacs. We went back into the exam room, where, speaking gently, I put the muzzle back on Boomer & reinforced it with a larger one. I then walked Boomer back to the back room, but had to let them take him from there, since according to the doctor my presence was unhelpful.
I understand about separating a dog from its owner to decrease its protective instincts. I know this because when Dr. Edhlund first met Madeline he asked me to leave the room for a little while & let him one-on-one with her. I’m perfectly fine with it. But I don’t think it’s going to do any good if the new handler is a total jerk.
On the second attempt, with two of the girls holding Boomer, Dr. Sakamoto was (presumably) able to examine Boomer & came out to tell me that Boomer had an abscess. Again, brilliant. I asked if they would be able to drain it, & he said they could.
He then began looking through Boomer’s chart. He pointed out that Boomer’s last boosters had been August 11 of last year, & that they were overdue, & haughtily stated that they definitely couldn’t be done today. When I replied to a medications question that Boomer was on Heartgard, he asked me if I was giving it to him every month, as if he didn’t think I was. I felt like I was under attack. He was trying to make me feel guilty, as if I hadn’t already been stressed out & anxious about Boomer’s abscess. He then asked if the dog that bit Boomer had been neutered, then asked if Boomer was neutered. When I responded that Boomer wasn’t, he asked why, & I replied that it was a condition of ownership; the breeder had given Boomer to me on the condition that I would keep him intact.
“What, to breed him?” he asked, obviously offended. I responded that the breeder just wanted to see how he turned out. Before I was even finished with my sentence, Dr. Sakamoto was making a lavishly unrestrained look of contempt & shaking his head. “If you ask me, I wouldn’t breed this dog,” he said, with open disgust.
It was around then that I realized I was positive I didn’t like this guy. “I didn’t say I was,” I said. He then proceeded to admonish me about dog aggression & neutering, & I reminded him that when we had reintroduced the dogs once they were calmed down, they had done fine.
The estimate for Boomer’s surgery came out to $1000. I didn’t have $1000. I said, “It would take me a little while to pay this,” & Dr. Sakamoto brusquely responded, “That’s something you’ll have to work out with them” & indicated the receptionist. “Well, do you want to do it?” he asked, & I said I needed to make a phone call. He nodded & headed back to the back room. I had wasted enough of his time.
I called my dad, who is a surgeon. I’d been avoiding it because I knew he would lecture me, but I knew I didn’t want to stay here. My dad said to bring Boomer over. I collected my dog, paid $54 for the exam, apologized to the girls for Boomer’s anal sacs, & told the receptionist that Dr. Sakamoto was a condescending bastard.
When my dad examined Boomer’s neck, he said it couldn’t even be drained yet because it was mostly cellulitis. He advised me to continue with the cephalexin until the cellulitis calmed down, & explained how an abscess worked & how I’d know it was ready to be drained. He explained that making an incision into the inflamed tissue now would only aggravate Boomer’s healing.
Dr. Sakamoto had wanted to charge me $1000 to make my dog worse & cause me a week of worrying over stitches on an incision that Boomer didn’t even need yet.
I’ve never been treated with such unabashed rudeness by any kind of professional, ever. It’s amazing to me that someone whose career is to heal would behave that way. I took Boomer to Gentle Vets full of worry, & then spent the entire visit feeling like I was under attack. Dr. Sakamoto wasn’t just unsympathetic; he was hostile & accusatory. The last thing I would have wanted was for that man to cut my dog open.
Boomer was totally right about him.