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Issue: 72 - Dec 15, 2014
We Fix Holiday Puppies!
By: Dr. Patty Khuly

’Tis the season. Yet again, it’s time for veterinarians across America to wring our hands over the holiday pet thing. If you’re anything like me, it’s a love-hate issue, for sure.

While I’ll roundly condemn the trivialization of pet-dom that comes with the kind of last-minute “Puppy Place” purchase many of us have become accustomed to, how else would we ring in the New Year with a confetti shower of new patients?

To be fair, a significant percentage of these holiday patients are planned. And there’s no doubt this is one of the few times of the year when everyone’s actually home to care for the new creature’s settling-in needs. But pet owners thoughtful enough to think of these things tend not to be the genesis of any veterinarian’s holiday woes.

Rather, what I decry is the last-minute strip-mall puppy purchase that comes about after sleepless musings on the twenty-third: Will the X-Box One and the new American Girl doll be enough to gratify my insatiable offspring? Perhaps I should buy that Cavalier-ish puppy with the adorably runny nose (and worry about the holes in the fence later).

Or worse, the ones who believe they’re being all kinds of modern and intelligent, “researching breeders for weeks” before buying a puppy online, facility unseen, via a “responsible breeder” in the midwest. (Said breeder claims to “certify hips” and “temperament test” all her pups before selling them but doesn’t have anything to show to back it up. You know the type.)

These are the humans who make my blood boil. Next thing you know the whole family’s crying at you from across the exam room table, begging you to make right a situation that’s not going to get righted without a sizable cash outlay they swear they haven’t got. Because they spent so much on the new puppy, of course.

So apart from the bad news you have to deliver when you detail the ocular, dental, orthopedic and cardiac details inherent to the undeniably adorable Cavalier-ish specimen before you, you have to handle the shock, the tears, and the venom that attends these rational explanations. All that and you have to save room for feeling sorry for the puppy and the kids, too.

Yeah, Happy Holidays to you, too.

The reality, however, is that the holidays can be a slow time of year –– especially for those of us who practice in colder climes. Even in Miami, where I practice, the annual festivities have a way of slowing things down for a month or so. And holiday babies make up for it to a pretty large extent. Which explains why we welcome them with open arms.

In fact, some of us go so far as to offer “Holiday pet” specials and such. If you do, I don’t blame you one bit. But angling for these cases probably means you have a much thicker skin than I do. 

Me? I’d always prefer to spend my holidays far away from the madding crowds (snorkeling in the Keys? surfing in Hawaii? skiing the Alaskan back-country?) than treating the kennel coughs, distempers and parvoviruses that attend December pet store overcrowding –– not to mention the genetic misadventures that characterize the annual puppy mill ramp-up to the “jolly” season.

Too bad such extravagance eludes me right when I need the break most –– just in time for the guilt that comes with raking in some much-needed cash off the backs of sad-eyed pups and their ignorant owners.

All of which makes me think I should probably be doing some of that advertising myself. Given that it’s my cashless-ness that keeps me grounded, I should probably admit defeat entirely and put up a neon sign that reads, “We fix holiday puppies!”