The Veterinarian Gift Giver’s Holiday Handbook

I spent the bulk of this past weekend’s free time preparing my favorite gifts of the year: An annual holiday cookies and candies smorgasbord I deliver to my favorite physicians, hairdressers, pedicurists, dentists, and, of course, veterinarians.

Yes, even veterinarians need veterinarians for their pets. In fact, my dogs have a team of them: a surgeon, a dermatologist, a neurologist, and two internists. And for them and their staff, I go the extra mile.

This year, it's cinnamon-chocolate marshmallows, salted pumpkin caramels, dulce-de-leche fudge, and white chocolate-coated macadamia nut brittle. Yum!

Which is a perfect entry to the rest of this post, one in which I will detail some gift ideas your veterinarian and his/her staff will remember forever. So just in case you already gave at the office, I suggest you bookmark this post for future reference.

Here are my personal favorites:

#1 A coffee traveler

I know it sounds boring but nothing beats this simple gift for its combination of cheap, easy, and memorable. In case you're not sure what I'm talking about, a coffee traveler is a cardboard box full of coffee you can buy at Starbucks (or any other coffee spot worth its salt). It's not pricey and my, how it beats the heck out of a pre-purchased box of Russell-Stover chocolates.

btw, It’s not that we don't LOVE chocolates. The problem is that by December 20th or thereabouts, we've consumed so much of the darn stuff there's no way we're eating any more and getting our calories’ worth. And let's face it, we get so much chocolate during this time of year that unless you're plying us with better-than-Godiva quality, we're not likely to remember it as well as something more creative, like …

#2 Homemade truffles

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of the homemade chocolate truffle. It takes almost no effort, little skill, and in spite of the fact that a perfectly rolled truffle looks just like it was dug up from under a rock, these creations are universally revered. The only sticking point: You need to buy expensive chocolate to really do them justice.

Here’s an awesome recipe adapted from pastry chef extraordinaire Jacques Torres.

#3 Homemade hot chocolate. I know it sounds strange but one year a client brought in a huge pot of the kind of thick hot chocolate you can only make if you're Hispanic. OK, so maybe you can be any nationality and make great hot chocolate, but somehow the really thick, gooey stuff always seems to be made by Mexicans, Spaniards, or Colombians. Just saying.

Here’s a great recipe for the Colombian version.

But enough of the food ... How about …

#4 A"get out of jail free" kitten card

Sounds strange, I know, but this is a truly amazing gift for any veterinary hospital. Offer to take on the very next "unwanted" kitten that comes through the hospital's doors. According to your offer, you will also take on the responsibility of finding it a forever home. Brilliant, right? I love it!

Or this …

#5 "Cage-cozies." Most hospitals I've worked at go through lots of what I call “cage cozies.” These are the stuffed animals we de-string and de-eye (for safety) and offer to our smaller patients for extra cage comfort. They might also be old baby blankets or hoodie-towels. Bring in a bag of comfy stuff like this and our place will be SO appreciative. But you might want to be careful here. You should probably check with the office manager before offering a basket of something that doesn't mesh well with the hospital’s culture.

#6 Donations to specific charities

Always sweet. Always welcome. Ask the office manager which charities everyone like best and donate in their name. Don’t want to ask? Donate to a local shelter in the hospital or doctor’s name.

#7 Donate yourself!

Are you in the animal biz? Donate a training or grooming session to the next needy client. Or if you’re an animal photographer, offer a staff photo, instead. Get creative with your craft and you will reap the rewards of your generosity. 

#8 Give an amount to be used for the next needy patient

If you’ve got the means, write your vet a note asking that you be called when the next needy patient walks in the door. You can offer just a small amount of assistance or offer to pay the whole bill. What I wouldn’t give to be able to give like that!

#9 Buy the vet’s staff a pizza party

Hate to say it but these people work really hard for way less money than they’re worth. So when clients single them out with the gift of a free lunch, they’re more grateful than you might imagine.

#10 Give the gift of art

Every hospital has a free wall for some more pet art. Most do, anyway. For example, a beautifully framed photograph of your late pet will NOT be unwelcome. We’ll put that right up, I promise. (But you might still want to check with the office manager first … just in case. )

OK, so now it's your turn. What did you get for your vet this year?