Thursday, August 3, 2017

Atlas and Somebody named Chester

I too often feel compelled to shoulder the burden of someone else's problem. To carry the weight of the worlds problems on my shoulder as if I am Atlas standing on the sea, desperate to hold the world above my breaking back and planted feet. It is the obligation of an emotionally driven anthropomorphic veterinarian living in the world of a plethora of disposable pets. 

There are pets who come to you in desperate, dying need. Pets that so often have been overlooked a thousand times before. I cannot ever explain, or even pardon, how, or why, people are so preoccupied with their lives, the daily grind of meeting others expectations, and not taking a second to shelter another less fortunate life.

Templeton. Rescued from the Harford County Humane Society in June 2017

For me it is the single greatest joy in being a vet. The tales of triumph in a life lost, alone, and mistaken as negligible. For me, it is the answer to the "why" of every single question.

Medicine, like every other discipline, at some point becomes repetitious. The cases blend into a muddy mass of numbers. The cold heartless statistics that begin to dictate decisions that used to be analyzed by diagnosis meets treatment plan. The medicine resides in the cure of disease, not replacement of a healthier substitute.

Volunteering at the shelter with Terri, shelter technician, discussing a tail trauma case.

"Are you saying that you want to try to treat her?" Long pause... hallowed silence.

"Yes, of course. She has a treatable disease. Let's try to treat her." I replied to the head shelter technician.

"I am never sure if you are serious? None of the other vets want to treat. She's so sick." Continued silence in the room of four other technicians.

"I am always serious. There is always a chance. If you are ok with me taking her back to the clinic, I'll take care of her."

Smiles erupt from the crowd.

Her name is Chester. She was very sick at arrival to the shelter. She was very thin, frantic to not be held, and blowing thick yellow snot from her nose everywhere.

To the analytical minds before me she is a disease vector with a long road ahead. She is unvaccinated, unspayed, and an unknown with too many questionable variables. To me she is Chester. To my training as a veterinarian she is more than somebody else's problem in a sea of problems, she is Chester. I do not see the forest for the trees, she is somebody. More importantly, she is somebody I can help. She is a cat with a severe respiratory problem who needs immediate intervention and medical care. She is what I do every single day. A list of clinical signs and treatment options that I can quickly list, exclude, narrow, refine and treat. I can also do it affordably and without justification to a client questioning motives, prognosis, and value versus expense.

Dory, rescued with paralyzed back legs from a spinal fracture.

On the many days it feels like I am a tiny boat adrift in a violent storm I am too small and insignificant to survive I look at the faces of the pets at my home, in my clinic, and even at the overwhelmed, over abundantly in need shelter pets and I remember to change my perception and focus my perspective and see each individual as a somebody. Her name is Chester. She is getting stronger, and happier, and healthier. She needs me, she needs to be seen, and I can help her. It is the reason to all of the "why's" and the answer to all of the weight of the world on my shoulders. I don't need to be Atlas, and she doesn't have to be perfect, we just have to see each other as somebody with value.

Pickles, one of the many bottle babies we have every Summer.
Here is what Chester had done;
We placed her in quarantine with food, water, bed, litter box and a hiding box if she wants to retreat from the clamorous, aromatic bouquet that a vet hospital presents. It can be a scary place for a cat who has spent her whole life hiding in bushes.
1. Feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus test. Both negative. Cost $40
2. Fluid therapy. Depending on overall hydration status and severity of her condition, intravenous at $80 a day, or subcutaneous at $25 a day.
3. Antibiotics. Critical to improvement, costs range from $10 to $60 for a two week course.
4. Eating! She has to be eating. We force fed her on the days she wouldn't eat. Prescription high calorie canned food that can be liquefied and syringe fed at about $5 a can, or a feeding tube if severe at a cost of $100-300, or find a food she likes after offering a lot of options. Turns of Chester is a dry kitten food fan.
5. Get her breathing, fast! We use a nebulizer and steroid drops in each nostril to open them up. Labor intensive but cheap. We use a nebulizer made for humans and steroid drops typically used for the eyes. Pediatric sterile saline drops in the nostril (1-2 drops per nostril) can also help open them up.
6. Keep her warm, weigh her daily, monitor for progression of disease, be prepared to alter her treatment plan and don't forget there is a cat under the snot. She needs vaccines, deworming, preventatives, and affection. She is a whole package. My job is to get her to be well enough and trusting enough to get a home.

The true measure of a practitioner is not in what your analytical mind tells you to be cautious of, it is fundamentally in your perception of life and the value it holds to one tree in a forest of others. It is how you view life and not how easy it is to replace it.

Our first trip to volunteer at the Harford County Humane Society.
We each came home with a pet.
Except me, I cam home with two pigs.

Wilbur,, adopted from the Harford County Humane Society
 If you would like to chat with me about your pets health, ailments, behavior, cost of care, or are a pet lover yourself and want to help other pets please join me on We are an open community dedicated to helping pets around the world by educating, empowering and inspiring each other. It is free to use and open to all animal friends.

Charlotte and Wilbur
I am also on Twitter, Facebook, and at the clinic at

Or on YouTube! Lots of videos on patients care with prices and options to discuss with your vet.


  1. I've often told you before - you are called to do what you do. It is a gift. We as pet parents are blessed beyond measure to have you and your colleagues i our world. Thank you so much for all that you do for so many.

    1. sending lots of hugs! Thanks for always being so kind.. and for saying hello.. xoxo krista

  2. Being a veterinary is the most honest and humble job one can do. It is not easy to be a veterinary doctor long working hours and treating harmless animals who are not able to express themselves.

    1. Many thanks Ashish,, take care of yourself and the dear pets in your life..