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how do you cope?

Discussion in 'Pre-Veterinary' started by Sapphir3blu3, May 13, 2008.

  1. Sapphir3blu3

    Sapphir3blu3 Way nontrad. 2+ Year Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    I'm a new tech of almost 3 months (related volunteer work for a year or two previous, though) and a pre-vet (I think!). I believed well before coming into this job that the capacity of humans for soullessness and cruelty can never be underestimated. But last week was the first time I went toe-to-toe with one of "those people" and lost.

    My last patient of the day was a big handsome 2-year-old kitty. His owner said he'd disappeared for a day and a half and she finally found him in a corner of the basement in a puddle of his own pee; he was dehydrated and very lethargic; she had to pull him out. We took him in back to check out his bladder, and... urinary blockage for the win!

    I walked her through a $900 estimate for an unblock, and as soon as I was done, she said, "No. No, we're not doing that." I told her that he would die of this without treatment. She said "That's OK. He's just a cat." Egads, at least *fake* a heart.

    My team started looking for a way to make something happen. We sliced the crap out of that estimate, cutting corners to offer to do a semi-hack unblock for much much MUCH less and just get the cat some relief; she still said no. Another tech walked out there to show her some of the grit and the few drops of cloudy urine we'd been able to squeeze out; she still said no. I asked if she'd be willing to surrender the cat to us rather than take him home to die; she still said no. Both of our doctors went out together to further explain what was wrong and why it needed to be fixed. I explained exactly *how* the cat would die AND SHE STILL ****ING SAID NO. "Just give me my cat, we're going home."

    I do understand not everyone has the money, or feels it's worth the money, to do this kind of procedure on a cat. What I cannot wrap my head around is refusal to surrender, knowing exactly how miserable that animal's death would be. I thought that was my ace in the hole, the thing that takes this problem off her hands at absolutely minimal cost. Why would you not avail yourself of that option? She never even asked me about euthanasia.

    Before she left, she did go from "it's only a cat" to "why would you think I wouldn't treat it? I just wanted to take him to the emergency hospital where they'll give him some medicine" (hence the chat with our 2 doctors, at which point it was switched to "where it'll be cheaper" [ha!]). I was thinking/hoping maybe we'd gotten through to her. The doctors finally agreed to let her leave with the cat, if she'd sign this thing saying she had declined all services but understood the critical nature of the problem & would get him treatment, lest we call animal control on her.

    I had to release him to her. I had to hand him over, and watch her walk away.

    The next morning we talked to the ER/CC. The owner had called them, told them what was up, and when they said there was no way they could give her an unblock for under $900, she went back to "it's only a cat." Kept saying it, kept saying it. Then hung up, never to be seen or heard from again.

    We called animal control. Who knows if anything was done. At this point it doesn't even matter. It's been almost a week. The cat is surely dead, and following up with AC would be as useless as that piece of paper she signed. I should be over it. I'm not. I am SO ANGRY. If there's a hell, I've got an express ticket with my name on it, for the things I've been wishing upon this woman.

    After a very long story, the questions are very short. Was there anything else we/I could have done? And how in the name of god do you deal with stuff like this?
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  3. twelvetigers

    twelvetigers no wake up time. sleepy time. Veterinarian 10+ Year Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    You did all that you could, and then some. There will always be people that make you mad. There's not really anything I could say to make you feel better... I could say that you'll get used to it, but that's depressing. True, but depressing. (BTW, not used to it like it no longer bothers you, but used to it like you won't lay awake with your fists clenched in rage thinking every nasty thought possible about the owner...)

    There are lots of great pet owners out there. Don't let the bad ones get you down. Go back to your job and think of all the animals youve helped so far, and the owners that were grateful for your help. :)
  4. Talkta Samson

    Talkta Samson Banned

    May 13, 2008
    I wanna talkta samson, fly me to the moon like that b*tch alice kramden! Cuz' it's hard being black and gifted, sometimes I just wanna throw it all down and get lifted!
  5. lailanni

    lailanni c/o 2012 Veterinarian 10+ Year Member

    Sep 11, 2007
    I would agree with twelvetigers - you surely did all you could. There are always craptacular owners out there, unfortunately, and there will always be things that you can't fix. But there are good cases, great owners, and things you will be able to fix.

    Do what you can, where you can, when you can, and know at the end of the day that you've done good.

    Now in terms of that owner, I would hope that karma gets to do some serious butt kicking. I'm certainly not people-compassionate enough to go into human medicine. Dang people...:mad:
  6. Truth74

    Truth74 DVM 10+ Year Member

    Aug 16, 2003
    Champaign Illinois
    Absolutely. You did everything you could.

    Unfortunately, this is one of the situations that I don't like about the job. Ultimately, if the owner doesn't care enough for the animal, there isn't any treatment.

    That poor innocent kitty. He died a slow and miserable death because she wanted to be selfish.

    If I couldn't afford to do what needed to be done, I would have done what was best for him. I'd rather a living cat out there somewhere, instead of a dead one in my house.
  7. Angelo84

    Angelo84 Tufts Class of 2011 10+ Year Member

    Jan 25, 2007
    It sounds like that cat was in bad shape to begin with. Given that if she was focing you to cut corners and go as cheap as possible he may not have made it anyway. And if she is against euthanasia there is really nothing you can do beyond pain meds if they will pay for them. As far as refusing to surrender that I also do not understand. You did what you could. As far as does it get better? The good clients usually dilute out the bad.
  8. zpinkpanther

    zpinkpanther Still searching... 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2007
    This sort of thing happens A LOT at the clinic where I work. In fact, we had a lady who just let one of her cats die of urinary obstruction without even taking him in to us- apparently she hoped he'd just get better on his own. My area has an odd mix of really poor and really rich people, and I know it sounds shallow and wrong, but I'd much rather deal with the rich people (or the people who aren't really that rich, but are still willing to spend money on health care for their animals) than the poor people. I guess that makes me a bad person, but I'm just really sick of hearing the words "That's too much money." It's even worse when this comes from someone with a Mercedes, a Louis Vuitton purse, a Bluetooth cell phone, Prada everything, etc. I know it's not my place to judge where people spend their money, but it just kills me.

    Anyway, I guess my answer to how I coped with it is I got numb to it. I started to expect people not to care for their animals and now when they do, it's a pleasant surprise. Cynicism has always worked well for me. ;)
  9. Sapphir3blu3

    Sapphir3blu3 Way nontrad. 2+ Year Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    Ha, zpinkpanther, you're perfectly describing the demographics of where I work. I totally get where you are coming from... I hate to feel like I'm being hard on folks without a lot of money, and I hate to feel judgey.

    I don't think it makes you a bad person to prefer dealing with the people with money, when money is the key to (or a proxy for) the alleviation of an animal's suffering. I hope not, or I'm a bad person too. I hear you on the people who spend all their money trying not to look poor, but I do have a harder time with the people who don't have the money but would spend it on their pets if they did. Nothing worse than showing the owner of a sick pet an estimate for $250, and having them tell you "I have $43, what can we do for that?" when you know that means that's not how much money they have on them, that's how much money they HAVE.

    (Secretly I'm trying to guess where in MD you are! Until last year, my husband and I lived there, in Silver Spring; before that we lived in NE DC about 3 minutes from Chillum/Mt Rainier/Hyattsville; he was raised in Takoma Park; I used to volunteer at the big wildlife rehab in Gaithersburg. Sigh... homesick :D )
  10. zpinkpanther

    zpinkpanther Still searching... 2+ Year Member

    Dec 2, 2007
    Ah, I'm jealous, you lived in the nice areas of MD. :p I'm in Pikesville, a suburb of Baltimore. The thing is, Pikesville itself, and some of the nearby areas, has lots of affluent people, but we're so close to the city line that people come from there, too. And it doesn't help that there's still an ad for a "complementary exam for new clients" floating around out there from when the practice first got started and they wanted lots of new clients. Yikes.
  11. Sapphir3blu3

    Sapphir3blu3 Way nontrad. 2+ Year Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    Hee! Well, some of those areas were nice. Others not so much. Takoma Park is famous for its liberalism, its azaleas, and its bungalows, but also there's the Langley Park side of town, where my husband grew up. No one's scheduling any home-and-garden tours over there, and folks have more pressing concerns than nuclear disarmament.

    I don't know Pikesville but I can guess. Neighborhoods change so fast in central MD. I know Ellicott City relatively well, and it's a little boggling to know it sits right on the Baltimore County border.
  12. Wolf Vet

    Wolf Vet MSU CVM c/o 2012 2+ Year Member

    I have an odd-situationed hospital as well. We are the largest/most numerous clientell vet in our area (prob 35-45 other hospitals in the area). But, we are also the most expensive. This means half our clientell are uber-rich and half come for our reputation and then are shell shocked by the price. That kitty unblock probably would have run the owner 1200-1500 at my hospital (ya, I know). Unfortunately, I am all too used to cutting estimates and trying to convince clients to treat, but I agree, the worst are those that decline for non-financial reasons.

    My story that will forever make my blood boil:
    A new client brought his 1 year old Shih tzu in before Christmas, with a large list of medical problems and requesting euthanasia. He said today was a "good day" and that's why the dog looked normal, but he didn't want to wait for more bad days. The PE indicated NO such illnesses and the Dr. refused to do it. After much argueing, he actually friggen tells us he'll find another vet that will, he does EVERY YEAR! Ya, that's what I said. Every year he gets a new puppy and offs the now not so cute adult! He just goes to different vets each time (I didn't think it could be true, but long story made short I later verified it. I am still horrified and pissed beyond measure). Try not to become too "numb". Our passion is what helps us put up a fight for the animals, it reminds us why we are all in this field.
  13. VAgirl

    VAgirl UC Davis SVM c/o 2012 2+ Year Member

    Jun 18, 2007
    Davis, CA
    That's like something out of a horror story. I cannot believe anyone would do that.

    (To clarify, I don't doubt your story. My mind just cannot compute the inhumanity. Makes me wonder if he's a sociopath or else could someone actually want an animal and yet be so unable to bond with it on any level over the course of an entire year?? And then just dispose of it like so much rubbish. Not even trying to find it a new home, but having it euthanized??) :mad:
  14. DrKsomeday

    DrKsomeday 7+ Year Member

    Dec 1, 2007
    Southeast of Disorder
    Maybe I am way off here, I don't know. However, I will ask anyway because I would like to know if any of you out there have asked this of the Vets you work for. Is there more legally as a Vet you can do for the pet if the owner is like those mentioned. Can you as the Vet seize or hold the pet? Or at least call AC to the clinic. Keep in mind I realize that AC probable has way too much on their plate to respond and then the clinic would get a bad rap but still I must ask.

    I have asked at the clinic I work at and the answer I have been given is we don't want any retaliation so we don't hold a pet. I understand that but it just seems in that grey area of wrong on our part if we are the pets advocate. I mean compare it to human medicine would you release a child from a hospital to a parent that has admitted to inhumane treatment. We are not even talking about suspected abuse we are talking about admitted neglect/abuse. I realize that human medicine is not perfect and pets in most states are property but still.

    Maybe I am just too new to this world to really grasp the nature of the problem or the financial implications the clinic would take on if they did hold or seize a pet.

    To the orginial poster I must say you did an amazing job to try and help this cat.
  15. Wolf Vet

    Wolf Vet MSU CVM c/o 2012 2+ Year Member

    Yes, I have asked my vets (I've worked for over a dozen) and they all say the same thing. First, it's bad for buisness, yes. But more importantly, you need PROOF. Sadly, this is harder than it sounds. You need hard core proof beyond here-say and "apparent neglect" such as seeing them pour boilig water on the dog (burn marks and the o saying they did may not be enough as the o will almost certainly deny it in court). :mad:
  16. sofficat

    sofficat AU CVM c/o 11 2+ Year Member

    Apr 12, 2007

    We had a couple come in with a sick animal and gave an estimate for $150. The guy left to do something so it was only the woman with the dog. The lady said she only have $80 on her and that was all she could pay. We cut the estimate down to $80 (comp-ing A LOT). The receptionist came to the back while we were finishing up with the dog and said that she saw the guy count out $100 and give it to the lady. 'i only have 80' my a**! I changed the bill to $100 even and she paid it.. in cash.
    hey- at least she paid it!
  17. Sapphir3blu3

    Sapphir3blu3 Way nontrad. 2+ Year Member

    Feb 4, 2008
    DrKsomeday, I don't think it's way off to ask. Obviously I'd agree: it does seem wrong there's not more you can do. Even something as theoretically unimpeachable as the concept of due process, I suppose, has its dark side.

    I guess talking an owner into a surrender is as close to heroic measures as you can get in a case like this. I'm lucky that at my clinic the docs are pretty good about taking surrenders & getting them treated. I know not every place would or could.

    That's why I was so shocked by what happened---not that people can be stupid and mean, because I knew---but that they would PREFER the stupid-and-mean route over the problem-off-my-hands route.

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