Other than the two years I lived in the dorms in college, I have had at least one dog that lived with me.
Usually two, sometimes three. And a cat…you know, here or there. Oh those cats…they come, they go. My last one walked in the door 10 years ago and announced he lived with me by jumping up on the couch and licking his balls as if he’d never left. Despite being allergic to cats I admired his moxie, so he stayed. I’ve had 3 free range rabbits in my home and I’d really, really like a hedgehog.
So when Tab, my 13 year-old Springer/Brittney Spaniel started to age and had some failings I was very pragmatic about it. “Well, you know, she’s just getting old, that’s what happens” I said. Having had animals my whole life I’ve held some as they were euthanized and while it was difficult, I always knew was the right thing because they were very ill.
About a year ago, Tab’s bark changed and she did this annoying “Darth Vader Breathing” off and on. It seemed to be just when she was agitated, like when I didn’t give her enough treats. Tab embraced old age like a Grand Dame demanding her due. She seemingly could turn this annoying breathing on and off according to her whim and the volume of Milk Bones administered until a few days ago. When I saw she was gasping more than normal and refused a scrambled egg for breakfast I took her to the vet. Immediately the diagnosis of laryngeal paralysis was administered by our hometown vet and she was off to a specialist.
In the course of that 6 hour day from vet to vet, options and procedures were explained to me. What became clear was that I had a perfectly healthy dog who was having trouble breathing because of a common side affect of aging that could be reversed with surgery that put a small suture in her throat. For $3600. Or, I could put her down. Despite her age, she was healthy and I could not reconcile putting a healthy animal to sleep. But that price tag…I cannot lie, it still sickens me.
Every single time I turned around the vet called with an update and there was a suggestion of another procedure I “should consider”. $150 for “advanced blood-work” because her liver panels were “Oh, just a bit elevated”. $325 for an abdominal ultrasound “In case there is some kind of blockage”. $325 for a “panel on her adrenal glands” and a suggestion for a dental cleaning that I stopped them from even quoting me for.
In each case, the Dr presented me with the options, but it was very clear that he would not make a decision for me nor would he guide me to the “what he would do” place. I finally got him to crack when I bargained for a free mani-pedi for her along with the procedure because if was spending that kind of money at least she could have pretty toes and the vet laughed and agreed to that.
I get that Veterinary Medicine is not an exact science and I know that these Doctors were covering their own asses as well as dealing with the what-if’s of a surgery on a older dog, but I couldn’t help feel that at times I was being held hostage. After committing to $3600, was I going to say NO to $3800? Of course not. I’ve done my own fair share of double-speak and I know when a Dr is saying ” This is your choice, and I can’t make it for you because you might sue me if I am wrong”.
That’s when it hit me.
Is this how our clients feel? Mired in an emotional quagmire in a place they have never been before do they feel “hostage” to spending money on an event like wedding? Do they feel like they have “no choice” but to spend thousands more than they planned on to get the photos that they want? Another $300 for those digital files, another $200 if you want an engagement session…
Do they understand what we mean when we tell them what a “file” or a “proof” is and are we taking the time to explain to them what the benefit our services are to them?
I’ve long been an advocate of the fact that photography is a luxury service. You do not have to have a fancy wedding to be married, you don’t need photos to be married, and you do not have to spend $3800 on your dog to keep her alive to prove you love dogs. These are, as the kids say, #firstworldproblems
So the next time I have a client sitting in front of me that seems overwhelmed or even angry at the process of hiring a photographer, I’m going to be a bit more sympathetic. Maybe my price tag sickens them and I need to be a bit more sensitive to that.
Maybe I’ll even offer them a mani-pedi on the house.