The right vet is vital to you and your petWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
A pet’s health is important to your state of mind. When your pet is suffering, you don’t feel well either. You are wracked with worry and the horrible thought that this might be the end. That is why when it is time to see your pet through on his or her final journey you need to be comfortable with your veterinarian.
My 2-year-old cat Ernie died Dec. 13. It was a sudden, fast-moving cancer that attacked his liver. When my husband adopted Ernie from the Toledo Area Humane Society (TAHS), he was sick with an upper respiratory infection. We nursed him back to health and he enjoyed several healthy months.
But then he started to develop kitty cold sores. He also suffered from another upper respiratory infection. Our vet for Ernie was Dr. Steven Reece at the Anthony Wayne Animal Hospital. Reece is on the list of vets that the humane society gives you after adopting. Reece and the others offer a complimentary exam. I randomly picked Reece because he was near our house.
From the start, Reece did right by Ernie and our pocketbook. He never tried to mislead me or my husband or prolong Ernie’s misery just to deliver good news. I would on occasion ask if Ernie’s treatment was becoming futile or if he was in pain. Reece always said no – until Dec. 13.
On that day, Ernie had suddenly turned yellow because of liver failure. He was fading quickly. I had spent the prior two days force-feeding Ernie at home to reverse what was thought to be a fatty liver condition. Every test pointed to that condition because Ernie had started to improve with a hospital stay the previous week.
Heartbreakingly, it turned out to be cancer, incredibly rare for such a young cat. My last few hours with Ernie were spent at Reece’s office, where it felt like a home, not an animal hospital.
This time with Ernie was incredibly important to me. Reece and his staff provided me with a private room where I snuggled with Ernie. The staff helped me wrap Ernie in a heating blanket because his temperature had dropped drastically. They even provided a portable heater to make sure we were as comfortable as possible. No one rushed me, no one tried to hurry the journey.
Ernie could not be put down traditionally because his veins had collapsed. But as the end neared, veterinary assistant Natalie Carter ever so gently made paw prints. Per my request, she even cut out a tuft of Ernie’s fur as a keepsake.
The compassion kept me strong. Reece looked forlorn as he delivered the news that Ernie had died. He told us to worry about the bill later. He knew Ernie was the only thing on our minds. Two days later, a veterinarian tech, Cheri Potter, who had been off the day Ernie had died reached out on Facebook to offer her condolences. “I know what it is like to lose ‘babies,’” she said.
It was Christmastime. My Christmas cards featured Ernie and my other cat, Lulu. People were sending me sympathy cards and Christmas cards – all mentioning Ernie.
But then something happened that I didn’t expect. A cat by the name of Zeke began to stalk me. I definitely did not want another cat so soon, especially a gray one like Ernie; however, I first ran across Zeke when I realized Lulu needed a much-needed companion.
Still, when I first saw Zeke on the TAHS website, I just couldn’t bear to adopt him.
A few days later, I was editing the Toledo Free Press and guess what? Zeke was the featured pet in Carlson’s Critters. Every week, TAHS highlights a pet that needs adopted. Zeke’s family had to leave him at the shelter because they were moving into an apartment that did not allow pets.
I just couldn’t “replace” Ernie, though. Ernie was my companion who had kept me company when my husband was out of town. Ernie followed me room to room, he slept next to me and he always hugged me after I showered because he was obsessed with wet hair.
But then I saw Zeke again. My husband and I had gone to PETCO to buy cat food and the store had a display of cats from TAHS. One of them was Zeke. I immediately started crying.
My husband said we could adopt him right then and there, but I refused. I couldn’t do it. I had to honor Ernie.
I left Zeke there, but emotionally he was still with me. It didn’t help that a day later, my mom, unprompted, said, “Did you see that cute cat in the Free Press?”
A few days later, I returned to PETCO and asked to hold Zeke. He melted in my arms. He reminded me of Ernie in a few ways, but was different enough to be an addition, not a replacement.
Once again, I received the adoption paperwork that included a list of vets for Zeke to visit. The choice was not random this time: It would be Dr. Reece.
Your choice might be different, but as a pet owner, the journey often begins and ends at the veterinarian’s office. You want that person to be skilled and compassionate. You want them to love your pet like you do. You want them to feel your pain. You want them to make you feel better when you have to make difficult choices. You never want to worry about the details, while you worry about saying goodbye. Pick your vet wisely. Your Ernie will be thankful.
What to look for in a vet:
* Is the facility clean, comfortable and well-organized?
* Are appointments required?
* How many veterinarians are in the practice?
* Are there technicians or other professional staff members?
* Are dog and cat cages in separate areas?
* Is the staff caring, calm, competent and courteous, and do they communicate effectively?
* Do the veterinarians have special interests such as geriatrics or behavior?
* Are X-rays, ultrasound, blood work, EKG, endoscopy and other diagnostics done in-house or referred to a specialist?
* Which emergency services are available?
* Is location and parking convenient?
* Do fees fit your budget, and are discounts for senior citizens or multi-pet households available?
Source: Humane Society of the United States