I hate when we have to notify an owner that they dog was injured while in our care. What makes it worse? Not knowing how the injury happened.
Yes, I know that there are going to be the occasional bumps, bruises, and scratches. I don't like it when it happens but I understand. We are an amazing facility, with extensive training, non-stop supervision, so when an injury happens we can quickly assess what happened, make changes to our groups, dismiss dogs, or even change procedures to prevent it from happening again. BUT when you don't know what happened...you can't do that.
Example Situation: Staff member was doing health checks before letting the dogs out to play for the day. They had been out only once that morning for a quick potty break as a group, then put back into their rooms. She found an injury. Not a small one, a good size tear (about 1/2" long) on the side of a large short haired dog. What?! He's a laid back dog, hadn't been involved in any altercations, hadn't shown signs of being injured, what in the world happened?
Our only answer was that he somehow got injured on a piece of equipment. The staff searched every inch of the playroom. A few bolts in the chain link stuck out a bit far. Did he hit the fence in such a way that a bolt tore his skin? We took him to the vet, no stitches, just antibiotics, and covered the bill due to the mysteriousness of the injury. When his dad arrived a few hours later we still didn't have an answer. I assured dad that we wouldn't stop investigating until we found an answer. He could tell by our concern for his dog and our concern about not knowing, that we really cared about what had happened. No excuses, no comments like, "well, you know there are risks associated with letting dogs play together." No. Just simple truth and genuine concern for both the dog and a strong desire to figure out what happened.
I dove into the footage. I watched the night before until I was convinced that it didn't happen then. I could see where the injury was and could tell that nothing was there yet. Moved on to footage from the morning. As I watched, I saw that sweet dog. A laid back hound that loved sitting around watching everyone and following the staff around for a little affection. He wasn't rowdy in the least. I was watching during the first morning group let-out. They were outside for only about 15-minutes for a quick potty break. Their group supervisor standing with them the whole time. A golden and a lab start playing a little too rough for the supervisor's liking so he stepped in to moderate. They were noisy and rowdy causing the other dogs in the group to take notice and run to the scene. Our sweet hound was just standing near the action not thinking much about it. Next thing I see is a black dog charge at him and bite his side. It appears as though the black dog had heard the commotion and ran to see what was happening with guns blazing. His first point of contact in this heightened state was our poor hound's side. It happened in a quick second.
Had I witnessed only that I wouldn't have thought any injury was possible. It was the sweet hound walking to the side, sitting down and licking his side that gave me the clue and had me zero in on the few seconds before. The group supervisor was literally 2-feet away, actively supervising, but was none the wiser. It drew no attention compared to the rowdy play of the golden and lab. No one but the spitfire black dog was at fault.
The solving of the mystery was bittersweet. We knew the answer to what happened while having to dismiss another daycare member. I was happy to call dad and tell him what happened. I explained all that I did to investigate, exactly what I saw, invited him to come watch it with me so that he could see how quick it had happened (he didn't take me up on it), told him the action we were going to take with the other dog. Though no fault of our own, I made it clear how bad I felt about the situation. Dad would say, "We know these kind of things can happen." To which I'd reply, "Yes, but I never want you to have to come back from vacation and deal with this. He is such a sweet laid back guy I feel horrible for him." I told him to keep in touch with me if the injury worsened and that I'd be in touch with him regardless to check up. He was kind and understanding. I will make sure to follow up and will continue to cover any vet bills associated with the incident. This is simply goodwill.
What if I didn't see what happened? What about those times when you never find an answer? Things to keep in mind with mystery injuries:
It's hard to say, but I feel mystery injuries are always the fault of the facility. No, I don't mean that the facility did anything wrong. Like in this case, we weren't negligent in any way. BUT to owners, it is your fault and they are correct to assume that. If you can't give them an answer as to what happened you have to question your policies, procedures, supervising rules, etc. Cover any vet bills and make sure you nor your staff ever have the attitude of "oh well, can't figure it out." Any injury you can't figure out will happen again.
Like I say with all "bad things", the second this injury happens begin your work to "WOW" the client. This is my challenge to you.
I don't know about you guys, but I had an amazing time at the Pet Boarding and Daycare Expo West in Burbank, CA. It was such an honor being the keynote speaker. I was so excited by the large turnout and even more excited that my content really resonated with you all. I never would have thought we'd have a crowd of 27 follow us into the lobby so that we could share more information and just simply talk and answer questions. I loved meeting the many kennel and daycare owners, being reminded, yet again, that we all share the same struggles, and passing on some helpful tips. I was joined by my Manager of Hiring and Staff Development Sara Beth Pinson. She was an integral part of the presentation and hope she'll be on-hand to join me for future talks and expos.
Our talk focus first on how different it is to own a pet care business compared to other businesses and the moved into the key areas you need to excel at in order to take your business from good to great. After moving to the lobby we discussed how to handle some of the "bad things" that might happen at your facility. If you didn't request my "Complaint Policy" to be emailed to you, please feel free to email me and request it now.
I look forward to seeing everyone at the Pet Boarding and Daycare Expo East! -Amanda