Cross-posted to the blog at Talking To Your Doctor.

Like anybody, I have particular favorites among people I work with. I try to give the best care to every single person in my practice, but I can’t deny there are people whose name on the schedule makes me smile. Today, I saw Ms. Mallory, not her real name. She’s a dynamo – I wish I could tell you about her historical importance and her artistic talents, but then I would be identifying her and running afoul of various rules and regulations. So I’ll stick to her cats. She has five of them.

Like people with five kids, she is always running from one appointment to another with one or more in tow. One of them had to go to the dermatologist the other day; the other had a general veterinarian appointment. A third needed grooming. And so it went. “I’m exhausted taking care of them!” Ms. Mallory told me, with a proud smile.

She’s a little mysterious, and I find it hard to put a finger sometimes on what’s bothering her. Many doctors call this “being a poor historian” but that phrase rankles me no end. Telling a good story about our symptoms is important (I discuss the reasons why at some length in my book), but often this phrase is a condescending excuse why the provider isn’t listening to the patient.

Often, then, I find myself wishing I knew what was really going on with her. Ms. Mallory has her ups and downs, and her chronic medical conditions which makes it all more complicated. When she’s in these peaks and valleys – some physical, some emotional – I would give anything for a deeper sense of her days and nights. To be more precise, I would love to interview her cats. Only they have a close-up view of her inner life. And, just like a wife or a husband, they know what it’s like to care for and be cared for by the person they live with.

I don’t do home visits. Even if I did, I wouldn’t get the whole picture from a half-an-hour visit. I’d really need to be part of Ms. Mallory’s inner circle to know what makes her feel better or worse. In other words, I would need to be a cat. Or speak feline. Neither of which are yet taught in veterinary schools.