Thursday, 28 August 2008

Sum of all parts.

'What was wrong with William in October Mrs Brown?' I ask. I am concerned about William the cats inability to walk, urinate, eat groom and pretty much be a cat. I am searching for clues in his history.

'Well that cost me a hundred pounds.' She says matter of fact.

'Can you remember what was wrong with him?' I persist.

'I don't know love but in June that year it cost me six hundred pounds and in March it was another two hundred, so I really want you to make him better.' She grins.

Mrs Brown fails to realise that a William is not like a 'souped up car' and that because she has spent nine hundred pounds already this will not automatically guarantee a green card for recovery, on the contrary his previous mystery illness is likely to worsen his chances.

If only veterinary medicine was that simple.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


Today I received a large box of chocolates with a note attached.

Dear Littlevet,

I am not sure that you have been told that on Sunday our 'Big Man' Sebastian was put to sleep by your colleague.

Things started to become difficult for him and he took a turn for the worst, I could not see my boy suffer anymore.

At nearly 13 and four months he has put up a 'Good Fight'.

Even though it is an extremely difficult time for us all, we wanted to give you a token of our immense gratitude for the care and help that you have personally shown Sebastian since we have known you at the vets.

I recall the time that Sebastian went in for a dental and even though, it was different people doing the treatment you made a point of telling them 'To be careful with him because of his neck.'

You are a 'Fantastic Vet' and those animals out there need you, so on behalf of Sebastian and the animal world we 'Thank! You!'

Sebastian was a much loved guide dog.

At a time when my morale has been at it's lowest I am so touched that a blind man found the time to write the words I so desperately needed to hear, leading me out from the darkness and back into the light.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


The papers are signed and consent has been given.

But what has really happened is that I have struck a bargain, in other words I will run the tests if she will just 'shut the fuck up'.

In a climate of ever increasing litigation sadly it sometimes does not matter whether you feel the tests are appropriate or not. Since our patients can't talk, if the client thinks there is something wrong with the dog then it is better to assume there is because if you are wrong the consequences may be serious for your career.

Before she hands the lead to me she strokes Dudley's head.

'He doesn't like you.' She says to me with acid conviction.

I have no idea how she can tell because Bassett hounds always look miserable.

'You are the only vet he runs away from because you hurt him once.' She continues.

I glance at the notes, the last time I saw the dog was 1999.

I wonder whether dogs really do feel emotions, if they do Dudley hasn't made his clear because he hasn't attempted to run away once.

I take the lead from her hand.

'I'm sure he doesn't remember.' I assure her

He follows me willingly, tail wagging out of the room.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Unknown territory...

The wounds are bleeding again. They are small and superficial but they trickle persistently because the heparin medication makes it difficult for the blood to clot.

'I think we need more plasters.' My Uncle says to me.

I want to tell him that some things simply can't be patched back together with plasters, but I know he will not listen so I fetch some more.

'I think she needs more pain relief.' I tell him gently.

I sleep in the room above hers, in the night I hear her crying often. Her breathing is also not good.

'She must eat.' He says as he tries to force bread to my Aunt's mouth.

For me, this is unknown territory. A place somewhere between this life and the next where my patients are rarely permitted to linger.

The cancer is advanced and my Uncle's atempts at palliative homecare are less than adequate. He still believes she will get better. He will not listen to the advice of the doctors but strangely he will listen to me, because I am not a doctor and I do not try to tell him what he does not want to hear.

Whilst I cannot fix my Aunt, I deal with death on a daily basis and I have some small understanding of the complex and mixed emotions that people experience. Sometimes when someone does not want to listen you have to find a way round.
He is obsessed with her food intake because this is the only thing he has any control over so I use this to my advantage.

'Perhaps if her pain relief were better she might begin to eat again and get stronger.' I tell him.
I avoid use of the word morphine because I know that it has a strong association with the dying.

He agrees. Eventually, but far too late, she is admitted to hospital. He is overjoyed that she feels well enough again to eat some cake.

Before now I have found health care professionals and those who have lost relatives to cancer to be strongly pro-euthanasia amongst their pets. They often have a surprisingly low tolerance to any degree of suffering.

Now sadly, I understand so completely. I only wish my Uncle would too.

To quote the words of a song,

'If you love someone, set them free.'