Thursday, November 20, 2008

Between Kindness and Responsibility

I brought Bella to Uptown Veterinarian this morning. Monday I noticed blood in her stool so I bagged it up and called my old veterinarian, Dr. den Boer.

Long-time followers of my old and sundry blogs will recall her from when I owned Katze, when he was yet among the living. When Katze went off his diet I brought him to Kitty Klinic, who charged me $300 for lab tests and said they wanted to "monitor" his kidneys. They wanted to see him for a couple more visits.

At a friend's recommendation I went to Dr. den Boer. She called Kitty Klinic and reinterpreted their lab results: Katze's kidneys had completely failed, there was nothing to "monitor." KK just thought they'd get a few hundred more dollars out of me before Katze passed on. Dr. den Boer charged me all of $40 for her own lab tests and research. Katze had to be put down and Dr. den Boer held onto his body in a freezer until I could find an appropriate burial plot. Out of gratitude for Dr. den Boer's service I constructed and still maintain a Web site for her business. Each year I cover the cost of domain registry and recently have started designing a nicer, more professional Web site through Google's services.

He's buried at my brother-in-law's parents' farm in Hutchinson, MN. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but if I believed any part of Katze's identity remained in his mortal coil, it would be very inconvenient and unpleasant to visit him. As it stands, we are still spiritually connected and I can honor his memory without visiting his grave.

Years passed, I met Rebecca, and we felt we were ready to provide a home to new cats. We came into possession of Bella and Toki, two beautiful and loving creatures. As I said, recently I discovered blood in Bella's stool and kept a sample to bring to my preferred veterinarian. I stopped in on Monday, on my way to class, to drop off the sample.

An old woman I didn't recognize came out and I told her I was leaving the stool sample. It sounded, in conversation with Dr. den Boer, like all I had to do was leave it on her desk but the assistant said she would get the doctor and went into the back room. I stood there for five minutes, waiting, hearing nothing. Anxious to catch my next bus, I left the sample (in a plastic baggie, in a bright blue paper bag, clearly labeled) on the desk and ran out.

Tuesday was my appointment. I brought Bella in at 2:30 PM promptly, and soon another client came in with her cat in a large carrier. In casual conversation she explained that she had an appointment at 2:00 PM but the office had been locked and appeared empty.

At length, the assistant I saw the day prior emerged, spotted us, and said she would get the doctor and went into the back room. I was losing faith that she actually would procure any doctor at all. After a few more minutes a UPS delivery guy arrived and had a package for which he needed a signature. Even he had a respectable wait before Dr. den Boer managed to make an appearance, but at 2:45 PM she met him, signed, and spent several minutes opening the package and explaining to me and the other client that the contents needed to be refrigerated. Dr. den Boer was not young the first time I met her, and that was several years ago. Now she moves very slowly, hunched over, though her voice is clear and her mental faculties seem intact. Her hearing has deteriorated, as the other client discovered in conversation--Dr. den Boer had few words for me, for some reason.

She apologized to the other client for not being here: she had been socializing with some friends and found it difficult to extricate herself from the conversation promptly. She told that client that she had to go in back to find a smaller pet carrier--the client's resembled a pup tent--to transport her cat, who was here for a neutering. She went into the back room and I waited a few more minutes before picking up Bella's carrier and quietly slipping out of the office. I apologized to Bella all the way home, for dragging her out into the windy afternoon and keeping her cooped up in the cramped waiting room. She didn't enjoy the noise of traffic and found no comfort in the scents of other animals. We stopped by Calhoun Pet Supply where I got her a special treat of wet cat food, which I split with Toki so he wouldn't feel jealous.

I'm quite upset about my experience with Dr. den Boer. All these years, I've been recommending her to friends and family, extolling her based on my one positive experience with her. But this time around I could hardly have been treated worse, short of actual belligerence. She was irresponsible about her afternoon's appointments, and my faith in her ability to carry out her duties deteriorated rapidly. It got to the point where I actually came to fear for my pet's well-being and did not relish the idea of leaving her to this doctor's care.

Yesterday, I executed a broad online search of other veterinary offices in the area and came upon Uptown Veterinarian. It had a number of positive reviews, and it's quite closer to my house. They had a separate waiting room to keep cats apart from dogs, which Bella appreciated--at some point in her feral past she suffered a traumatic experience with dogs and can't settle around them. We were attended to by a friendly young assistant, and when Dr. Smith came in she was professional, courteous, and receptive. They handled Bella expertly and sufficiently explained to me how they would diagnose and respond to her affliction. The bill I received seemed thankfully reasonable, as well.

I feel bad about Dr. den Boer. None of us are getting any younger, and what else can she do? I can't recommend her anymore, however, and I certainly cannot bring my pets to her. Additionally, I think I'm done paying for her Web site. Other sites refer to her sufficiently--one of which ripped off my site's content without credit--so when the registry comes around again I'm just going to let it lapse. Someone else may pick it up if they like, I've done more than my part.


Alexis said...

That's too bad. At least she cared for Katze in a compassionate manner way back when and, likely thanks to you, has extended that same care to countless other animals over the years. Time to retire, I guess.

noma-neko said...

that stinks. i went to her too. i'm glad you found another vet that works out for you. and boo hiss to the kitty clinic.

Penny said...

This is really sad. I was always very pleased with the care she gave Samantha and how much I learned from her.