Saturday, November 30, 2013

When Trying Is All That Matters

This is a story about Daisy Mae.

A small dog with a big gleeful smile and a disposition as sunny as a spring day's dress. She is pure joy on short crooked legs. To her the world is rose colored glasses and a pinch of tentativeness. I loved her from the moment she lowered her head and threw her ears forward at my "Hello."

But my first introduction to Daisy was with a blackened film on a window pane.

The x-ray film came to me from the clinic down the road who had neither the time nor the inclination to address her misfortune. On our first meeting Daisy was just a film and a paragraph. "Daisy, corgi, 8 months old, broken femur, unspayed, unvaccinated, owner has no money."

They had sent the film to us and wanted to know "If we could help her?"

A film and a question. It starts out this simply. 

I looked at that film longer than I needed to. I was volleying back and forth between knowing what I knew and wanting my head to tell my heart that this broken bone was beyond my ability. 

Isn't it easier to have a solid stern excuse? Isn't that how vet number 1 got off the hook?

I did what we all do when we are reluctant to put our necks out for a stranger. 

I called my friends with adept skilled surgical hands and I asked for advice. 

If you don't know what to do you get a second opinion. Two second opinions later I was on the hook. I merely had a few details to resolve.

I called Daisy's mom. We had some important things to discuss.

Here's where my dilemma begins; Daisy Mae needs her leg fixed. I can help but her owner is not my client, and she has not been what we would call a "model parent." She cannot afford my services, and I feel guilty.

I asked Daisy Mae's mom to come in the next day and talk to me. 

The dichotomy of being able to help is being responsible for the after. It is not just the quick fix and goodbye, it is the obligation to that pet to catch them up, get them mended and put them on the path to a healthy rest of their life.

But that little piece of advice I learned the hard way.

I have helped so many pets simply because I knew I could, believed no one else would, and felt I wouldn't be able to live with the guilt of turning away. And those little acts of kindness, those good deeds, well, they often led to owners who for a short time made you feel as if you were their hero. Until some time later when another disaster strikes, and then they come knocking again. An unplanned pregnancy, a pyometra, a bloat, severe ___ anything, and that good deed does not go unpunished. Medicine is about looking at the problem in front of you, the path to get out of your problem, and an exit strategy.

I met Daisy and I met her mom. As my pessimistic attitude proved me wrong, Daisy's mom was a dream. She had rescued Daisy, had multiple other pets, and all were all spayed/neutered, vaccinated, and loved by a responsible mom. First bullet dodged.

I discussed my concerns with getting Daisy caught up on her needed puppy items. And how she was going to be able to afford those after the surgery? She had plausible feasible plan, and I felt more comfortable assisting her despite the first set back. We laid out a short term plan; get broken leg fixed. A catch-up plan; for vaccines and a life long plan; for spaying, heartworm prevention, and the incidentals of being an active young pup. Second bullet dodged, guilty conscious acquiesced, and onto surgery we went.

There are quite a few secrets that every compassionate veterinary clinic has. For us at Jarrettsville Vet we have a network of people who we can call and both ask, and receive help, from. I also have a JVC donation fund that clients, friends, and angels from afar help to keep funds available. After I met Daisy's mom I offered to place a few calls and in total we raised almost half of Daisy's surgery with just one phone call. I also offered to do her surgery at the barest bones possible.

Now I know that many people would argue about this last offer. But when you walk a mile in my shoes you can criticize my judgement calls. It is physically impossible for me to look a pet in the eyes that needs my help and for me to not try to help. If that means cutting some corners, then I cut corners. BUT, I tell that pet parent what I am doing, and what those corners mean. Those cheaper options ALWAYS place the burden on the pet parents. You may have to give more pills, drive back and forth more times to the clinic, and talk to me a whole bunch. Is it easier and safer to leave your pet in the emergency clinic for three days so they can be closely monitored by a professional? Yes. But if you are a parent who wants help for your pet we will make it happen, regardless of your budget. Medicine is a little bit skill, ability, equipment, resources, miracles/magic, and a whole heartful of determination always helps to tip the scale in your favor.

The next surgery day Daisy Mae had her femur pinned in two places. It was not a fun, easy, or routine surgery for me but thankfully, she did very well and woke up with the same little tail wag and bowed ears she went to sleep with. Her bones were soft and young and the grace of youth will bless them with a forgiveness that can make even a novice surgeon look like a super hero.

I called her mom to deliver the surgery report. It was an open and honest discourse. Her surgical repair had taken longer, been more difficult, and hadn't been as quick or easy as I had hoped for. But I was fairly certain it would hold long enough for the bone to fuse and give her a normal return to her short stubby shuffle.

Daisy was ready to go home the next day. When her mom arrived to pick her up I when out to meet her to go over the post operative instructions. I explained to her that Daisy's leg was much worse than I had hoped it would be, and that the bone wasn't as aligned as I wanted it to be. I also explained that we had to keep Daisy quiet, calm, and on a leash or in a crate for about 8 weeks. As I explained all of this Daisy's mom looked at me and with tears in her eyes, "I'm just grateful that you tried."

I stopped talking, looked at her, and said, "You have no idea how much I needed to hear that."

It has been a month since Daisy's surgery. She is running, jumping, and playing (all against strict doctors orders, but try explaining that to a puppy). She is bright, energetic, and unstoppable.

Here are her one month post-op radiographs. 

If you have any pet related questions you can find me at Pawbly. We answer any pet question and we are always free. Come join us! It is all about helping pets.


  1. I'm impressed Krista - that isn't a surgery that any veterinarian would like to tackle, and for you to do it out of compassion, rather than just as the way of earning your living - good for you. Let us know how she gets on.

    1. Hello Pete!

      Jeez, not like I needed any pressure...I don't know why I volunteer to do these surgeries? I guess because I feel like the last stop/chance. So I tell myself,"I've got nothing to lose, if I don't help no one will,.."" like that somehow relieves me of some pressure? Which of course it doesn't. I toss and turn the whole night before. I curse my own sense of nobility and bravery during, and then I beat myself up after because I should have been faster/better/ done something differently...oh, the drama I elect for myself..

      Ill post an update when I see her Thursday.

      Hope you are well..

      Have a wonderful holiday.

  2. Tough case and a good explanation of going through the steps we all go through in our mind on whether to get involved or not. I think I may get a little angrier than you and the question always comes into my mind - "If you can't afford the animal then why do you have it?!?" Of course, one look into the distressed animal's eyes and I am guilty for even thinking the question and then the one little devil on my shoulder says "sucker!" with a slight chuckle.

    Like Pete said - let us know how Daisy Mae does.

    1. Hello Dr. Beatty,

      It is a lesson I have learned the hard way (seems to be my preferred method), that getting angry just costs me. It is a much more productive outcome for all parties involved if I try to find some way to get everyone to collectively join forces for a common goal. (These days it is my single greatest personal challenge; to try to get every pet help even if my clients and I don't always see eye to eye).

      I will see Daisy on Thursday, fingers crossed, small prayer, and slight hold of breath.

      It was a challenging break to undertake and the ends of the fracture were not as visible or easy to align as I had hoped, but I guess the proof will be in the pudding. I will update as she heals.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, I am a big fan, and I am and Pete in the same blog!!,,its really a sign that I have made it into the vet blog fold..



  3. I'm so glad you were able to help her. Speaking from experience, sometimes your financial situation changes. If it weren't for our vet accepting payments we would have lost our Twix a lot sooner than we did. She had the worst case of pancreatitis our vet had seen and had to be in the hospital for several days. Even though she lived for several more years, I think the pancreatitis damaged her somehow because she was never the same dog again. I thank God for compassionate vets like you.

    1. Hello!

      Thank you for reading, and I am so happy to hear about your Twix. Many vets practice for the sheer joy of helping pets and their people get through the rough spots, and many of us will accept payment plans for our good clients to help facilitate this.

      Thank you for reading,