It will come to me. Just give me a little longer and it will come to me. But in the meantime I do apologize. It was clearly awkward for both of us. You saying a friendly and hearty "Hi Dr. Schott!" and me an, I hope, equally friendly but unfortunately slightly less hearty "Hi.....!".
I recognized you for sure. I just couldn't remember your name. Or that of your pet. Or pets. Or their species. Or whether they were still alive. So I had to substitute "How's insert name of pet(s) here doing?" with "How are you?", which is ok, but not as good. I wish you had your dog(s) with you. That would have helped jog my memory. Should that have been a clue? Maybe you don't have dogs?
But the awkward bit was when it was obvious after you stopped to chat that I should introduce my family. This is when I could tell from your face that you realized I didn't remember your name. You're a kind and understanding person so you weren't hurt or disappointed, rather you felt bad that you put me in the position of having to try to remember. And I felt bad that you felt bad on top of the feeling bad that I couldn't remember. And now you probably feel bad that I felt bad that.... Never mind.
So here's the thing. I'm sure that you are smart in addition to being kind and understanding, so you know this already, but it still bears explaining. The thing is that you have a box in your brain marked "veterinarian" and another marked "dentist" and another marked "piano teacher" and so on. Each of these boxes contains one, or perhaps at most a handful, of names and faces. Pretty straight-forward to connect those names and faces. I have a box in my brain marked "clients". It contains upwards of 6,000 names and faces. I have a decent memory, but... Well, you get it.
What you might not get though is that you don't even necessarily want to be one of the names I can connect to faces. Just like with a newspaper where far more bad news gets printed than good, far more names connect to faces when they are associated with something bad. It's just more memorable.
So, if I do remember your name it often means one of two things:
(a) You are one of those wacky clients staff talk about all the time.
(b) Your pets are way too sick way too often.
In other words, you should feel really good that I didn't remember your name. But give me a bit more time and I will remember. It's on the tip of my tongue. Just like when you're trying to remember that actor who was in that movie with what's-her-name who use to be married to what's-his-name in that other movie, you know? Right? Yes, that one.
Once again, my apologies.
Dr. Philipp Schott BSc DVM