Sunday, May 31, 2015

"I wash my hands of this cat."

This is a true story. True as I can make it and still protect the identity of the characters involved and the ironic sad truth that these scenarios happen.

The clinic we built centers around a mission of helping pets. Jarrettsville Veterinary Center provides our community with a safe place that provides exceptional medical care, and this doesn't cease when our clients can't pay, or give up being guardians. Very simply we care and are always more than a business.

Like all of us trying to live adherent to a higher calling we are challenged to follow through with our conviction when the hail storms fall. Life will dump crap on you just to see what you are made of. You aren't unlucky, you are instead being given a chance to shine amidst stormy weather.

Such was the case of our newest addition; Simon.

We had never met Simon before the day he was brought in to our clinic to be euthanized.

His story started out as many other indoor cats does. A cat like so many others who was adopted, vaccinated as a kitten, altered as a 6 month old and kept behind the doors of his family since. He was brought in to us as a middle aged tabby who had lived with his family for almost a decade.

Simon is a rather rotund soft soul who prefers to sleep sunny side up unabashedly flashing the staff unconcerned with the bustle of a busy veterinary practice.

Simon arrived in a cat carrier escorted by two sobbing women on a day when the reception area was packed. Crying clients carrying a pet in a vet clinic is the universal sign for departure over the rainbow bridge.

If we know that we have a patient coming in to be put to sleep we take great care in getting them into a quiet room quickly. Minimizing stress, strangers glances, and having to share your grief with anyone else is eliminated. Saying goodbye is never easy, but we do every single thing we can to make you and your pet feel that there is love even when there is goodbye. We didn't know Simon was a one way trip and the odd scene of a crying family eliciting and seemingly enjoying empathy from the other waiting clients was beyond disturbing. This is a job where uncommon things are common, but this scene was alarming and disconcerting. The technicians quickly found a free exam room and quickly alerted the unsuspecting vet that a euthanasia appointment had arrived.

The news of an unscheduled euthanasia for a seemingly bright, alert, and active pet quickly swept through the clinic. I walked by the exam room to take a peek at the lugubrious couple with the new arrival and the death sentence.

Two women lay on the floor sobbing as a fervent joyful feline sopped up the abundant attention doted upon him. They cried and smothered him with pats, strokes, hugs, and last sentiments of the wonderful cat he had been. It is a juxtaposing scene a veterinarian sees often, a grief stricken guardian sorrowfully pleading a good-bye that is too great to bear for any onlooker. BUT, there was Simon, happy as a lark, full bodied, well groomed, and soaking up the affection greedily.

Clearly, something was amiss with this? My curiosity and sixth sense of experience and regrets kicked in.

"What's the deal with Simon?" I asked the vet as she departed the exam room.

"He's been peeing on their laundry for a year." She replied with a sigh and disgust. "They can't afford to treat him."

"Has he ever had a urinalysis? Have they ever worked him up for a possible medical cause?" I asked. This is the usual response of a vet in these cases.

"No. They have never brought him anywhere. Never done anything about it." I could see the pain in my friends eyes. These are the cases that add nails to your coffin.

"What if we used some of the donation funds to help with the diagnostics?" I offered. I knew that keeping a pet with a family that loves them is the safest place for a pet. I would rather help a client through a financial tough spot and keep a pet in its home then try to find a new home for an adult cat. "What if we offered to pay the entire bill to get Simon the diagnostics he needed?"

"I tried that already. They just want to 'wash their hands of him.' Their words, not mine." Her face fell to the floor and the vice of a helplessness assassin replaced her normal vibrant optimism.

"What do you think?" I asked of her. I know that she was going to have to be the person who bore this burden. Working in a veterinary clinic can be a terrible place to have a conscious.

"Simon appears to be a healthy, sweet affectionate cat. I don't want to do it." She said meekly back.

"Then don't. Offer to have the cat signed over to us, and tell them to never come back. If they refuse explain to them that you don't feel right about it and walk away."

Elated and gleeful she burst out an "OK!" Her smile returned to her face.

I often feel like a parent to the staff at the clinic. That smile on her face is worth every disciplinary action of every board member reminding me that my job is to treat pets like property and comply with owner requests. The way we are asked and expected to treat the pets the law deems as property has ripple effects and consequences on us. I don't ever forget this. I stand by my patients, my staff, and the ability to help both. The law, well, that is a belief that changes with time, it is not a conscious with burdens to carry to the grave.

Simon's family left through the waiting rooms front doors wadded tissues in hand to a crowd of clients hugging and sobbing condolences of understanding and compassion. They further had the audacity to embrace every bamboozled empathetic person on the slow dramatic march out the door.

Simon's bloodwork and urinalysis confirmed he had a urinary tract infection. Like so many Pawbly questions I answer, people assume a cat is being spiteful and therefore not using the litter box, when in fact they have a real medically based problem. Poor Simon spent over a year trying to notify his family that there was a problem and their answer to him, "wash my hands of you."

I might live a long healthy robust life, but I remain steadfast in my devotion to pets and children. People, well, I just don't understand them? If I try to I feel disgusted. If I give up on them I loose my faith in humanity. Which is worse? So, I do what so many of us do. I do as much as I can for all that I can. Jarrettsville Vet remains committed to help pets in need. Thanks to the community and our friends we are able to continue to do this.

"You're welcome Simon. We love you too."

Simon is an outgoing, affectionate, charming boy. He loves everyone and everything and would make an excellent companion. He, now minus his urinary tract infection, is up for adoption at our clinic, Jarrettsville Veterinary Center, inn Jarrettsville, Maryland. We also have other pets in need of homes and we would greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about them.

If you have pet experience that you want to share, or a pet question in need answering, you can find a group of caring knowledgeable individuals at Pawbly is free for everyone to use.

You can also find me on Twitter @FreePetAdvice.

Related blogs;

Peeing Outside the Box. The 20 Minute Cure.

Feline Marking. What is it and how to stop it.

When your Client Gives Up On Their Pet. Where do you stand? The cat and the line in the sand.

Related Pawbly questions;

How do I stop my cat from peeing on my lounge?

My cat Sally has been experiencing a lot of urination problems. What is cystitis?

Male tomcat not using the litter box anymore. Why?

I just adopted a cat from the shelter and he's scared of the litter box. What can I do?

Simon has been with us at the clinic for about 6 weeks. there has not been one single episode of him urinating outside of his litter box. He is a calm, happy, sweet boy who wants nothing more than a simple life shared with someone who loves him.

Can you imagine having your guardians "wash their hands of you" because you have an infection? Happens every single day in countless veterinary clinics around the globe. It breaks my heart.

Simon reminds me every single day that it takes so little to care but does so much when you do.


  1. If they have an elderly husband or Dad with a prostate issue, I wonder what their plan is?

    1. I know. I often wonder how people can live with themselves and convince themselves this neglect and indifference is acceptable? For instance, when people use age as a reason to not pursue diagnostics or a treatment plan? I often say to them, "well, my husband is 60, I don't tell him that he has to live with his knee pain because he's too old to get it fixed. I'll just put him down now and get a new one."

  2. Poor Simon. I'd like to think he's better off. I understand your frustration. I'm an animal control officer and deal with a wide variety of pet owners too -- everything from the over-the-top neurotic to the ignorant to the down right heartless. All we can do is keep doing our best and hope we are making a difference. Wine and chocolate help.

    1. Simon is absolutely better off. He is in a place that loves him unconditionally and will pay attention to his needs.
      I agree that human beings can be the most despicable creatures and wine and chocolate help maintain a spirit of faith that someday mankind will do better.
      Thanks so much for reading and for getting up everyday to help an animal in need. I know that there must be some incredibly hard days. My thanks and best wishes for endless chocolate and wine!

    2. Simon is absolutely better off. He is in a place that loves him unconditionally and will pay attention to his needs.
      I agree that human beings can be the most despicable creatures and wine and chocolate help maintain a spirit of faith that someday mankind will do better.
      Thanks so much for reading and for getting up everyday to help an animal in need. I know that there must be some incredibly hard days. My thanks and best wishes for endless chocolate and wine!

  3. Savior is a term we use in many religions, but for all the Simon's out there it means "Thank you Dr. Krista"

    1. He's adjusted very well to the clinic. He's very happy to be around a big bunch of cat people who pet him all day. Come over and say hello to him the next time you are in. (Oh, and ps he is on a diet too!)