One of the most difficult moments of 2014 in our family also brought about one of the most amazing experiences we had as customers in this past year.
I’ve always been a “dog person” — someone who is remarkably fond of, and devoted to, the pups that I’ve been privileged to share my life with. The sweetest dog I’ve ever owned was Sasha; a part-Terrier, part-something-we-weren’t-sure-what.
Sasha would curl up on my chest when I took a nap…and was the easiest dog to take care of that you could imagine. Her enthusiasm for food was boundless — as proven by a YouTube video I made a few years ago of her tail wagging as Tammy was preparing her meal.
Her love for us was unconditional…and it was returned by all of us.
We noticed that Sasha had a little bit of a cough as we were getting packed to drive from our Indiana home to our Vegas one this past November…and that cough persisted and got worse as time went on. The first diagnosis was that it was probably bronchitis, and we started her on a program of antibiotics.
As her condition only worsened, we made a run to the 24-hour animal hospital on Thanksgiving night, and viewed an X-ray that showed a mass on Sasha’s lung that the veterinarian informed us was most likely cancer.
Other tests confirmed the diagnosis, and as Sasha’s condition rapidly deteriorated, Tammy and I were left with the difficult choice of euthanasia. We were devastated — at only eight years old, we figured we had several years left with her — but, we weren’t going to let our sweet little girl suffer.
Enter the Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center — where we first met with a canine oncologist to be certain we were making the right choice, then where we requested that Sasha’s life be ended with care.
Dr. Holly Burr consulted with us — taking great time and making an extraordinary effort to explain to us (even drawing a diagram on a whiteboard) of Sasha’s cancer. She outlined alternatives — from surgery to chemotherapy, just as a human would receive. However, she honestly told us that the expense involved and the suffering our beloved pup would consequently endure was simply not the selection she would make, if it were her companion. When we told Dr. Burr of our decision, she touched us both on the knee and said with remarkable compassion, “You’re making the right choice for Sasha.”
James Quintana, the clinical coordinator, showed us to a quiet room that felt almost like a chapel. In a few moments, he and Dr. Burr brought Sasha to us — with IV in her leg and a towel wrapped around her, so that Tammy and I could hold her as she passed.
Before Dr. Burr administered the drugs, she said quietly and kindly to Tammy and me, “When Sasha has passed, take as much time as you need — then, walk right out the door. Don’t worry about stopping to settle your bill — we will do that sometime later when you feel better. Now is just your time to grieve.”
As Sasha slipped away from us, both Tammy and I were stroking her, telling her what a good dog she had been. We couldn’t help but notice a tear in Dr. Burr’s eyes, as she was doing the same.
After holding her for a few more moments, Tammy and I walked right out the door and headed home to give a few extra treats and praise to our surviving doggie, Bonzo — and to remember the joy that Sasha had brought to us all.
Later, reflecting on what had happened, I realized that this was an exponentially better experience than the other occasions when I’ve had to say goodbye to a much-loved dog.
Notice, LVVSC would’ve made more money if we had taken extraordinary measures like surgery or drugs — however, they encouraged and supported the best decision for Sasha, not what built a larger transaction.
Every other time I had a similar experience, it was in the same room as the vet did examinations, not a special setting. Never was my pup wrapped in a towel with me holding him or her — it was always just me petting them as they slipped across the Rainbow Bridge and a doctor holding syringes looked on with varying degrees of compassion. And every time I — full of emotion and sadness — had to go to the cashier and pull out my credit card to make sure I settled up before I left the building.
This time, the great folks — especially Dr. Burr and James — at Las Vegas Veterinary Specialty Center had thoughtfully anticipated the needs of pet parents like Tammy and me, and found a way to deliver an Ultimate Customer Experience ®. For that, we will be forever grateful.
Even if you’re not a “dog person” like me, there’s still a powerful message for your business for the coming year. EVERY business can create and deliver an ultimate experience for customers — even if part of your business is dealing with people who have to make the difficult, but necessary, decision to say goodbye to a dear friend. If they can do it at LVVSC…you can, too.
A deep and profound thank you to Dr. Holly Burr, James Quintana, and the entire LVVSC team for making such a significant impact on us through your caring, compassion, and concern.