Friday, May 09, 2014


Dr Aldin (not her real name) is a client of my wife, Sally. Sally has a pet sitting business, and when she travels Dr.Aldin uses her to take care of her two large dogs and a couple of cats.

Dr Aldin is a very important person. She works for a large local hospital chain, and she is the boss of 2,500 other doctors. So obviously she is a good administrator because her employer has given her quite a responsibility. The doctor’s house is in a very nice part of town, but it is not ostentatious. It sits on a residential street in an upscale neighborhood of similar houses.

Dr Aldin is particular. When she was being interviewed for the job, Dr Aldin told Sally her previous pet sitter had been a teenage girl who had stayed there with her boyfriend (not approved by the doc), and when the doctor got home saw the young couple had rearranged her furniture. Sally promised she would not do the same.

Sally’s philosophy on pet sitting is much like the Hippocratic Oath taken by physicians, “First do no harm.” She treads lightly in the homes of her clients. (For the record, I do not go in the homes of her clients unless there is an emergency.) While being allowed to cook, watch television and sleep in someone’s home, she takes her job seriously and doesn’t change anything. She cleans up after herself and always leaves the place looking as good, or better, than when she got there. It’s why she has repeat customers who know to book her months in advance.

As to the doctor being particular, she had left on her flight the first time Sally got to her home to begin her duties. Dr Aldin told her the key would be in a fake rock at a designated spot. Sally pet sat her dogs for several days. Sally’s procedure is to find out exactly when a client will be returning, then leave the premises a couple of hours before that time. She leaves her bill and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for the convenience of the customer. Sally left the key in the fake rock after making sure everything in the house was as she found it when she arrived. Dr Aldin got home after Sally’s first visit and texted her that Sally had put the fake rock back upside down. Horrors. Sally made a mental note: for Dr Aldin replace things in an exact manner.

Dr Aldin’s dogs are both fairly old. They are given a specific diet and a specific amount of food. But Sally is a kind-hearted soul who likes animals to be happy, and in her mind the way an animal is kept happy is to be given treats. Dr Aldin came home from one trip and noticed Sally had used a bit too much of the food. So the next time Sally pet sat in her house Dr Aldin had all of the food in sealed bags carefully marked so she would only give them that amount at feeding time. Without saying anything she had signaled her disapproval. Sally got the implication.

But this last incident really sealed my own feeling that Dr Aldin has obsessive-compulsive disorder. While staying in the doctor's house Sally uses the guest room with adjoining bathroom. She found out quickly there was a trick with the shower handle, and she had to figure out how to adjust it for hot water. Other than that she describes it as a nice bathroom with a spa.

The reason Dr Aldin called Sally was because Sally had arranged, with the doctor’s approval, to have a substitute stay with the dogs since Sally would be out of town. Sally had gone through some listings on a local website and contacted a young woman, a college student, who was looking for pet sitting jobs to earn some money. Sally felt good about her and said she could direct some jobs her way. It was that young woman who subbed for Sally at Dr Aldin’s house.

The doctor called Sally, no text messaging this time, to tell her that the young woman had used the doctor’s bathroom, and Dr Aldin found black hairs in her shower drain!  To further compound the sins of the student, when the doctor went into her back yard she found piles of poop, which showed her the dogs had not been walked.

Sally did a masterful job of soothing the doctor by pointing out that the young woman probably had trouble with the guest room shower. The doctor admitted the shower handle was a problem. Sally also said the map that the doctor provides for an exact route to walk the dogs (yes, she has a map), is confusing, especially to someone who has never been in that area before. Yes, the doctor admitted, it would be confusing. Sally convinced the doctor to give the substitute a break.

In thinking about it and getting to the end of this long story, I believe that in the doctor’s case what seems like a case of OCD is what has driven her to the great heights in her profession. She has managed to handle it in a positive way. All of us have a bit of OCD in us, some more than others. To some it is so debilitating that they spend hours doing things like washing their hands (not bad for a surgeon, just hurry it up, doc, the anesthesia is wearing off) or rattling doorknobs to make sure they are locked. In Dr Aldin’s case she is very meticulous, and I’m sure what Sally sees is indicative of how the doctor conducts her professional career. She has exacting standards. That would be good for her superiors. Details are important in a hospital setting. Paying close attention would be a plus in keeping the business running smooth.

I imagine she micro-manages, also. That would be hard on the employees who work in her office. I can’t imagine how hard she must be on secretaries, for instance. I wonder if she has a lot of turnover in her personal staff.

I have had bosses with obsessive-compulsive disorder. They can drive you crazy. But if someone can channel OCD into something constructive then it can be a valuable asset to an administrator. I take medication for my own OCD, but many people don’t. If they can live with it and make it pay for them, good. For me it was a hindrance, but for Sally’s client I believe it has put her at the very top of her profession.

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