Jonathan Yardley wrote a piece for yesterday’s Outlook section about putting pets to sleep, revealing that he’s escorted seven pets to their final reward.
I wonder how the hell he managed to do that around here.
I own two cats, one at least 11 years old, another 6 1/2. Both were strays my wife and I found in New York, and both have had medical problems. Our older cat had a cancerous growth on her lower lip. At the time we were both childless and employed and didn’t think twice about shelling out for the TWO operations this condition occasioned. She was the very picture of health afterward, even though she developed the soul-crushing habit of pooping outside the litter box once our first child was born, a habit that has so far eluded a solution despite much veterinary advice (separate litter boxes, any number of different litters, etc.).
Now we have two kids, and I have to admit that when the older cat came upstairs with her head cocked permanently to one side and wouldn’t eat, my first thoughts were celebratory rather than sympathetic. Could this be it? I wondered. I know, I know, but I have picked up A LOT of cat poop.
Apparently the only treatment for cats that may have had a cerebrovascular accident is a night of observation, followed by a visit to a veterinary neurosurgeon for an MRI. A. Veterinary. Neurosurgeon. The first step of this process would have set us back about $1,000. The neurosurgeon’s services would be priced separately. I asked if there were anything else—-hint, hint—-we could do. We walked outta there with some medication they didn’t think would work. It worked.
Recently our younger cat developed a urinary tract blockage. We rushed him from our vet to the all-night veterinary hospital, which wanted to keep him overnight for observation, then possibly perform surgery to—-I’m not making this up—-remove his penis and create a hole he could pee through for the rest of his unhappy life. This time euthanasia might have been on the table had the cat not, uh, unblocked himself when we got there. (“We’d be having a very different conversation,” our vet told us.) We walked out with some medication that they didn’t think would work. It worked. So did my debit card: $400.
What struck me both times was the extraordinary (and extraordinarily expensive) measures to which the vets went to as option A. Look, I’m sympathetic to the concept of keeping your beloved companions around, and I’m glad both my cats are still with us. OK, I’m only glad the younger one is still with us, but it’s just that when I was a kid, I remember talking my Dad and our vet OUT of euthanizing a cat of ours that had a broken leg. “Doesn’t cost nothing to bring a shovel to the ground,” one of my uncles observed, watching kitty drag around the resulting cast. Do vets ever offer euthanasia instead of referrals to veterinary specialists? Or do you have to go to less fancy veterinary hospitals for that? I gotta say, the patrons of vets’ offices in Alexandria, at least, seem strikingly similar to the people I see at Whole Foods. Is it possible that death is doled out less stingily to pets in less desirable Zip codes?