One of my favourite books growing up was The Wizard of Earthsea. This book is the story of a wizard that has great power – yet this power is dependent upon knowing the name of something. Without this it doesn’t matter how great the power you have, you are powerless.
When you are doing surgery some doctors believe it is useful to dissociate yourself from the patient as that way you can do what you need to do without emotion. Personally however I believe it should be all about the patient. A name takes it from being just a dog or cat to a patient, someone that should be looked after and cared for to the best of my ability.
The first question that I will ask a pet guardian is the patient’s name. Something I have come to realise in doing this is that is not only does it give me someone to look after, when asking such a simple question in what are often traumatic times can help create calm. It’s such a normal thing to ask.
And in veterinary medicine calm is good – animals are so good at picking up on human emotion that if we are upset or stressed then they are upset and stressed. So asking for a name is a step down the stress ladder.
The pet guardian realise then that it is not just another animal to you, they realise you care, and they feel they are in the right place.
Being in Slovakia gives me another view on how medicine works. It’s amazing the time’s I’ve walked in and asked what is their name to find out that no one knows. In the UK it is something I’ve never come across – we are good at getting the paperwork right – and we are expected to know the pets name.
Then again it can also cause problems when you rely on the computer and the records are out of date. I’ve heard stories where a pet has passed on across the rainbow bridge, and the guardians are in with a new pet who you naturally assume to be the pet that has passed. That is never a good situation however one that is easily fixed.
A name attaches the responsibility to you. When something goes bad you are sad because of the name. When something goes right you are happy because of the name.
Now my memory is absolutely awful for people, however I remember every single patient I have every treated.