House Calls with Benefits – by Dr. Amanda Glew
There are some advantages to doing house calls. You can set your own time, you need to give yourself ample time to provide for travel as well as delays, you get to visit people and their animals in their home environment. Most of these calls can be sad – often we are asked to do these for end of life cases. A home euthanasia relieves the stress of being at a veterinary clinic, sitting in a busy waiting room, and allows all to cry without embarrassment (vet included).
Sometimes I am asked to go for routine exams for clients who have large number of animals. Other times I go for elderly clients, or those with handicaps. These are fun to do, you chose a time when you have no other appointments, and more often than not, these end up being a social call with coffee. You get to see the animal in their natural environment, and evaluate the home care of the companion. I have been known to make comments if the water bowls are encrusted!
There are times when I get to see how strained some of my clients are for finances – which makes me more understanding when they ask for help, or more able to offer alternatives for care. Once, I came to a home that had brightly coloured flowers in the boxes – surprising since it was autumn. When I looked, I realized they were plastic. I complimented the elderly woman on her boxes – and she apologized that they used to be real flowers, but she could no longer afford them. For some reason this made me sad….
There have been times that I have been asked to do something out of my duties as a veterinarian. Once I visited an elderly lady who had a lovely garden in the back. After we had done the euthanasia, she came to me with a shovel – I was caught off guard when she asked me sweetly , “Would you mind digging the hole Dr. Glew?” Of course I acquiesced – it was only when I was struggling with roots that I thought why on earth had I accepted.
My absolute favourite house calls are those involving food, which often come with European descent. For some reason, there seems to be an expectation of me sharing something of their culture – and it has opened my eyes to the differences of those who live in our country. There are my Asian clients, who offer me wonderful cookies. There are my Polish clients who feed me a plate of homemade pierogies or cheesecake. There are my Spanish clients who give me flan. There are my Scottish or Irish clients who offer me scones with tea. Of course, my Italian clients offer me Tiramisu or some homemade cannoli. I have even had the pleasure of Iranian tea, with sweet figs.
Most recently I was at a client of Ukrainian descent – of course they have Borzois. A multi-generational family, a mix of French, English and Russian were spoken amongst the grandparents, parents and children. I was invited for coffee – Turkish coffee served in a beautiful copper pot, heated on a stove. The grandmother, who spoke only Russian, offered me a Napoleon cake, similar to what I know as a Mille Feuille, but with the historical importance of when Napoleon was defeated in Russia. Apparently the cake is traditionally made in the shape of a tricorn – the hat of the defeated French army. It was simply out of this world! I am known for my sweet tooth, but when offered a 2nd piece, I had to refuse for my waistline. However, when she gestured for me to take some home, I graciously accepted! I felt like an honoured guest.
Sometimes I am asked why I continue to do house calls when I am so busy with my work. My answer is simple – it is because of the food. 😉