A Smile and a Dog Go Together Like a Tail and a Wag
“There is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”
– Margaret J. Wheatley.
In a world that is still reconnecting after two years of social distancing and isolation, it seems that people enjoy doing business with a company that has a heart. They appreciate a local business that cares about the same things they care about – a shared interest or common cause. Finding a cause that means something to you fills your love tank, but finding one that means something to your patients is magic.
I was heart-broken a few years ago when, within a year, I had to say goodbye to each of our two Maltese, Boston and Gracie, who had been a part of our family for 14 and 16 years. I miss them every day, and if you’ve ever lost a beloved pet, you know that I look for them at the foot of my bed at night, and I look to see their sweet faces filled with anticipation every time I come in the back door from a day at work.
But getting another pet any time soon was not an option, considering how much we like to travel. So we decided to visit the local animal shelter to see what we could do to help our area’s only no-kill shelter. I met with the director and marketing coordinator, and we decided to make a monthly contribution to the shelter’s clinic to cover the cost of dental exams for pets.
To promote our new alliance, we created two identical postcard-size flyers. One is for our office, offering our patients 10% off deep scaling at the shelter’s clinic. And the other one, for display at the shelter, offered their clients a free human dental exam at our office. “A dog and a smile go together like a tail and a wag,” became the theme of our blossoming outreach project.
A large box was placed in our lobby with a giant poster listing the Northshore Humane Society’s “Wish List.” Our patients loved seeing this, commented on it often, and kept our donation box full.
At the end of 2022, we delivered the last full box of the year, and I began thinking about what community project we might want to turn our focus to for 2023. I went to the lobby to take down the poster and remove the box. To my surprise, in just two short weeks, the box was full again. If our patients had a vote on our 2023 community project, then this was it.
Then, I got an email from my contact at the shelter reminding me that February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Who knew? As if that wasn’t enough, she sent me information about a new program they’ve introduced to take shelter dogs, screen them and train them to be service dogs for physically and emotionally disabled humans. How could we resist? So we committed to another year of support for the Northshore Humane Society.
To give our team a chance to participate and help launch our second year, five of us hopped in the car at lunch one day and took a field trip to the shelter for a tour and some cuddles. The clumsy, 9-month old Great Dane twins were the sweetest, but the 3-legged cat named “Sugar” was hard to resist. We’ve floated the idea of a comfort animal for the office, but the jury is still out on that.
Our office promotes the use of oral probiotics for our patients to help maintain the balance of beneficial pathogens and fight harmful bacteria. Our supplier also makes an oral probiotic powder for pets. My daughter had a shelter cat in California that developed severe gum disease and abscesses, requiring an expensive surgery to remove several teeth. So, we have now offered to donate one jar of oral probiotics each month to the clinic at the shelter to be used as a giveaway “contest” for pet dental patients.
Our patients continue to donate hundreds of dollars of bedding, food and toys to the Humane Society through our office; we are donating to the dental health needs of pets at the shelter, and our patients love partnering with us to support this community effort. I think Margaret Wheatley had it right. When your passion for something shines through, followed by energy and action, real change can happen.
About the Author
Julie Moreau, FAADOM, is Practice Administrator for her husband, Jim’s, dental practice on New Orleans’ Northshore, MoreSMILES Dental. She earned a Journalism degree from The University of Alabama and landed at Tulane Medical Center as a publications editor. As newlyweds, the long daily commute seemed counterproductive to building a life together. So, with his only two team members on back-to-back maternity leave, the decision was made for Julie to enter the practice and learn both clinical and front desk to fill the void. As a force multiplier for her husband, the practice took off, adding team members, new patients and eventually a new office with double the capacity.
Julie was in dentistry for 35 years before she found her way to AADOM during the Covid shutdown. She earned her FAADOM in 2021 and is completing requirements to receive the MAADOM designation in 2023.