The Cookie Thief!

I have the good fortune of lecturing professionally, and what I most enjoy presenting is the topic of communication between veterinarians and their clients. In every communication lecture I emphasize the importance of empathy. This involves veterinarians putting aside any preconceived notions and judgments about their clients so they can better recognize how their clients are feeling and what they are truly needing. In order to drive this point home during my presentation, I usually recite a poem I adore called, “The Cookie Thief.” While preparing a lecture earlier this week, it dawned on me that you might like this poem as well. Enjoy!

The Cookie Thief

A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”

With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half.

He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude!

She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.

She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.

If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologize, she realized with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.

Have your preconceived notions about someone ever been completely upended? Do you think your veterinarian has preconceived notions about you?

Happy holidays to you and your loved ones,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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3 Comments on “The Cookie Thief!

  1. I have been a “Cookie Thief” on many occasions in my life. In order to have a healthy relationship with my veterinarian I have a meeting with them (when it’s a new vet) to talk about how I want/need to pursue healthcare for my pets. I do this when my pets aren’t sick and this has proved to be the most beneficial thing I’ve ever done for my pets. I tend to be on the alternative side of healthcare for myself and all my children. That said I feel it’s important to know where I am coming from in order to get a diagnosis as I am not a doctor yet I want to have every opportunity I can have when it comes to healing my critters. I have told my vets I may come in for a diagnosis and not choose your treatment plan and need to know they are with me on this and not make me wrong but work with me so together we can come to what’s best for them. This has been much appreciated by my vets b/c the animals aren’t sick, no one is stressed and communication is free and easy, therefor much better understood. I am not a vet and I need their help clearly and this really helps when the animals are really ill and I am emotionally stressed.

    Thank you once again Dr. Kay for bringing this up.

  2. One of my favorite topics to teach to my college classes was perception! In my own life, I try to keep my prejudices at bay. But I find my human side! Whenever I catch myself jumping to conclusions, I am reminded that along with perceptions comes forgiveness — from others for our own misperceptions when we’re honest enough to admit that we misunderstood. And every time we’re forgiven, it’s another opportunity to pass that forgiveness forward. Love the cookie theif story.

  3. Middle of the night, at the emergency vet with a dog bleeding from the mouth, having been kicked by a deer in the orchard, not 100 feet from the house, during night chores.

    PC and I are in farm chore clothes (now somewhat bloody). Miss Rosie is a breed the vet has never heard of, and she is in standing estrus, which fact I volunteer. The oral Hx the vet takes during the initial exam conveys the additional information that she is four years old, has never had a litter, but is due to be bred in a few days.

    While my dog bleeds, this man who doesn’t know me from Eve delivers a canned lecture on the importance of spaying and neutering. The one I could have scripted for an audience of meth heads whose saggy-titted Rockwilder is bringing forth her fifth litter of bound-for-the-flea-market whelps under the front porch. But with less veneer over the contempt.

    Now *I* carry a preconception about that entire clinic.