XIII. Maybe I Shouldn’t Eat Chicken, but Some Veterinarians Eat Dogs

This week I had a terrible time getting a veterinarian for our little blue (smoky black) teacup poodle, Jetta. She was coughing and in pain around her head or left jaw. Suddenly she didn’t want to run up and down steps and when I’d reach to pet her, she’d yelp even before I touched her. Occasionally she had exhibited the pain symptoms in the past; I attributed the pain to maybe her teeth, which she had been losing over the past year or so. She turned 11 on June 24. (The first couple of teeth I saw on the floor, I’d pick up and study and wonder, is that Emma’s or Jetta’s? I determined they were Jetta’s.) So, this time, I thought maybe she had a toothache. Too, she appeared to have an infected spot on her lip. Yet, she was coughing rather persistently. Again, this began a year or so ago, when she’d cough if the weather was humid and especially when she’d been sniffing grass. I thought she might be allergic to something.

Now, however, her pain persisted and the cough worsened. It seemed that when she followed my encouragement to run up or down the stairs, she might be experiencing a jarring pain, like when you have a headache and any movement makes it reverberate. Jetta kept her tail plastered down and she stuck right by my feet, or Emma’s walker, to the point where I avoided sudden movements at peril of stepping on her or kicking her. She’s little, smaller than many cats, dark and hard to see in a dimly lit room.

My not having a car and having to wait until an aide was here to care for Emma made it tricky scheduling an appointment with a vet. The first vet I called said the earliest they could get Jetta in was in two weeks; the second and third said the earliest was in a week. I didn’t want our little dog to suffer with pain for a week. I mean, how would you like to suffer with a headache or toothache for a week? (Of course, I could only speculate what was ailing Jetta; I asked her to tell me, but she just couldn’t get the words out.) The second vet I called makes house calls – for $150 – but even though she was driving right by our area on her way downstate, would not have time to stop.

A young assistant in the office of the third vet said that when the doctor came in, she would tell the doctor my situation, and although I had scheduled an appointment for a week away, the vet would call me to discuss the case and determine if I needed to bring Jetta in sooner. This conversation took place at noon. The vet was to call by 6:00; she never did.

At dinnertime, neither Jetta nor Emma ate. Jetta curled up in her little bed near the dining room table, and Emma sat and stared at her food. My prompting and coaching, placing food on her fork proved fruitless. Well, actually, Emma did eat some cherries; she spit the stones into her salmon salad.

That night I called the vet’s emergency number, left a message and she called me back. She said, “I don’t know why the staff never gave me the message. We had a pleasant chat, even discussed the upcoming vacation of my friend who had recommended this vet. She instructed me to call the office manager in the morning between 8 and 9 and she – who “is very good” – would arrange to have a staff member stop by my house, pick up Jetta and take her to the office for X-rays to make sure her heart and lungs are okay in case they needed to extract a tooth. I felt relieved.

The next morning I called the office manager at the prescribed time and she said, “Oh, well, I’ll have to ask the doctor.” Of course, I said, well, the doctor told me to tell you …”. Exasperated, I left my phone number. Two hours passed, and no call. I called them back. “Oh, I talked to the doctor,” said the office manager, “and she said we can’t take you. We don’t have enough staff. You’ll have to call [the second vet I had tried]; they do house calls.”

I wonder, why would you become a veterinarian and then let an animal suffer? Solely for the money? “Oh, you’ll just have to let her suffer for a week.” How is this any different from the chicken farmers who cram hundreds of distressed chickens into coops?

I cried. I was so upset. I rarely cry these days; it seems more productive to take action than to sit down and cry. I also sent a distress email to my friend, R. He called me right away. “Find a vet,” he said calmly as I sobbed over the phone, “and I’ll drive you there.”

I called an animal hospital about a half hour away and they saw her that afternoon. The doctor pulled out two of Jetta’s very loose lower canine teeth, gave me an antibiotic and said the coughing was probably caused by cartilage in her trachea somewhat collapsed, as occurs in older little dogs, so that when they get excited, they cough. She gave her an antibiotic. She said to call her in a week and let her know how Jetta was doing. She said that unless I wanted to, we did not need to do X-rays and other tests at this time, because her examination showed Jetta’s heart to be strong, her lungs clear and her temperature normal. During her visit, Jetta was hyped up, her adrenaline rushing due to her adventure; so, it was like, “What sick dog…?” She seems a little better, but still in some kind of pain, though not as extreme. I am still concerned, nonetheless.

The vet asked me if I wanted a pill-form or liquid antibiotic. I said liquid, because years ago Kolia, my husky/wolf/German shepherd (black with blue eyes), would say, “Pill? Oh, not a problem.” And then later I’d go and find that he had spit it out in the corner. Jetta is very good about taking her medicine, albeit with a mild “Gakkkkchhh.” I think she thinks it has a funny flavor, and she goes and drinks water afterwards.

Jetta still waits for me to carry her up and down the stairs. But, she calls to mind my sister’s sheltie who at one point had some kind of inability to climb the steps in their split-level home. So, my sister would carry him. One, day she had to race up the steps without first stopping to pick him up. He ran right up after her.

–Samantha, June 26, 2011

 

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