Yes, Derrick. I was messing with your head. Are you a dog owner or a dog lover?

by Caroline von Fluegge-Chen

Yes, Derrick. I was messing with your head. Are you a dog owner or a dog lover?

This is Derrick Pallis, the son of my mentor, and his new dog, Okami – a pup just a few months old. Derrick knew exactly what kind of dog he wanted, an Akita, the type of dog he grew up with as a child. Okami follows in the footsteps (paw steps) of Kuma and Grizzly. Yesterday, Derrick stopped by Balance Atlanta with Okami to say hello. It’s no secret how much I love meeting the pets of my patients.

Derrick asked if I could give Okami a chiropractic adjustment. While I have taken classes in doggie chiropractic, by no means am I an expert. I liken my skills more to a combination of trigger point therapy and Reiki – a Japanese form of energy healing. It seems to work – every dog that I’ve worked on has gotten better. I inquired if there was anything going on with Okami.

Derrick replied, “Nope. His nose is a little runny. But I thought he could use a good adjustment regardless.” That’s the response of someone who grew up in a chiropractic family.

He went on to tell me that he went 30-minutes out of his way to purchase premium high-grade dog food. This wasn’t just any old chow.  I noticed Okami was wearing a colorful collar decorated with patterns reminding me of Native American artwork. This collar was unique. It didn’t surprise me that Derrick had picked this style. After all, his dad started the chiropractic Love Has No Color initiative on Native American reservations in Montana many years ago.

The breeder, eager to sell Okami because of the family’s impending move, gave Derrick an $800 discount. Yet Derrick admitted he spent at least that much on a crate, dog toys and other accessories. I was not surprised. Go for the best, Derrick.

Derrick said he was looking for a dog trainer. It was important that Okami gets off on the right paw, so to speak. Though I didn’t know of a trainer off hand, I e-mailed Derrick a link to Petsmart’s training course. I was amused by Derrick’s response. He was puzzled! “Dr. Caroline, are you messing with my head? Petsmart for training? That’s like getting chiropractic care at one of those $10 crackpot places.” I think Derrick was horrified!

Later, I went online and posted my inquiry on a FaceBook group page catering to pet owners who really are not just pet owners, but pet lovers. Nothing but the best for their pets. I knew this group would steer me in the direction of a trainer who offered premium training. Now don’t get me wrong, Petsmart does the job, too. But it’s not the place for high-level, one-on-one, specific training catering to a certain type of person who expects and pays for the best.

And yes, I was testing Derrick. Is he a pet owner or a pet lover? Anyone can own a pet. But if the pet is sick, unruly, demanding, or injured, the pet is considered to be a nuisance. If finances are tight and the vet bills are too high, the pet might be given away, left behind, or put down – unthinkable, but all too common. A pet lover is someone who does whatever the blank it takes to guarantee the safety, health and happiness of their pet. Time, money, logistics – well, those are not even a consideration. The well-being of an animal, the love for a pet – nothing stops short of premium care, premium attention, premium opportunities. For pet lovers, pets are highly esteemed members of the family.

In the Pallis family, health for children and for pets was the #1 priority. Dr. Kevin said the best checks he wrote were for hockey, dance and singing lessons by top of the line coaches to serve his kids’ talents. Second best wouldn’t do. It’s no wonder all three of his kids are chiropractors (or studying to become one); Derrick, currently in chiropractic school, played hockey for Princeton and then later at the pro level; Christy, an accomplished singer rivaling Carrie Underwood, just received her doctorate; and Randi is a high-level modern dance and theater performer, who also happens to be weeks away from receiving her doctorate.

What’s the point of this story? We invest in what we value and what we believe in. When patients ask me to compromise on my recommendations I stand strong. I refuse to minimize the quality of care I offer or the value of my experience serving thousands of patients. Balance Atlanta is not Petsmart or Costco. Balance Atlanta is premium care for those who ask, no demand, premium services for themselves and their children. Giving our kids and our pets the best – that’s a no brainer in the Balance Atlanta community. Derrick is a pet lover, not merely a pet owner. When he has children, I have zero doubt his kids will benefit from premium level health care – yes, premium level chiropractic – not a discount, franchise, one size fits all excuse for a chiropractic clinic. I hope my patients will consider the same for their children.

Because when we value health and family, there is no such thing as inconvenience.