Yellow Brick Road Takes a Detour to My Veterinary Hospital

When a homebound client died recently, she left instructions that WE should take in her two geriatric pets. What?!! I’m going to click my heels together…

shaved cat bathed in yellow light
Meet Bridget, née Bright Spot, the 18-year-old newly shorn calico who now haunts our restroom.

So the phone rings in my veterinary hospital this week, and the home health aide says, “Ms. Housebound has peacefully passed away.”

“So sorry to hear that,” we sympathized. “Is there anything we can do?”

“Dr. Lichtenberg said she would take the pets when Ms. Housebound died.”

I said what? No I didn’t! Maybe “Don’t think about that right now, Ms. H,” or “They’ll be fine, don’t worry, just take care of yourself, Ms. H.” But take the pets? As in, FOREVER?

Does my tiny hospital look like Bideawee all of a sudden? Take the pets? We’re talking about a 16-year-old poodle with Cushing’s and heart disease and an 18-year-old cat — matted, flea-infested, eyes stuck full of goo, oozing sores, gross mouth, yuck!

Not to mention ANCIENT! Highly, adoptable? No. Looking for sucker technician to help me out with this dump? Yes.

My practice manager had made a deal with Ms. Housebound a very long time ago. Out of necessity, she ran up veterinary bills. Hers was truly a hard-luck case. The pets were her companions. She deserved help from our Dino fund (money for homeless or indigent owners), which she received, and Ms. HB sent us $50 every month on her revolving bill after her most essential personal bills had been paid.

In small white envelopes, return address barely legible, the checks always arrived on time. She had always held up her side of the bargain. So I felt I had to hold up my side of the bargain that I never agreed to in the first place.

Okay. My technicians are staring at me with long faces. “Can we keep them, Ricky, can we, can we?” “Only if you help with the care, Lucy and Ethel. Then we can keep them.” Under duress, I say we’ll take the pets.

What is wrong with me? Well, no family members or home health aides have stepped in. Shelters, even no-kill shelters, would consider these animals unadoptable. Once in a while, I guess we can put ourselves out on an Inconvenience Limb!

What Kind of Shape Are They In?

Pappy (formerly known as Lucky) has a date with the Wizard of grooming.
Pappy (formerly known as Lucky) has a date with the Wizard of grooming.

Now, since I haven’ t seen these little guys in a while, I’m afraid they might be in really bad shape.

I’ve been telling the home health aides for years that we will clip Lucky’s face and cut his nails (his nails have grown into the pads in the past), but they didn’t have the ability to bring him in frequently enough. He usually looks like a hobbling, hairless disaster.

The pets had to be out by a Friday. Great! Now I need someone to take care of them over a weekend no less. We compromised. The cat could come in on Friday, the dog on Monday. Okay. My practice manager mentioned — just mentioned — to the aide who brought the pets in that Ms. Housebound had an outstanding bill.

“She has too many bills. She can’t pay you anything. I mean, we can’t pay you anything. She’s deceased.” As the aide handed over 16 pounds of a stinking, encrusted orange muff, I said to myself, “I know there’s a poodle somewhere under there. We just have to find it!”

So forget the bill, of course. I mean look at what we got in return? A purebred dog!! Laughing all the way to the clippers and the tub, I mumble that it’s time to find Lucky.

We’re Off to See the Wizard!

Three vet techs worked diligently on carefully finding Lucky’s eyes under the mats and clipping the patchy, matted fur on his body so as not to cause pain or bleeding around the zillion old dog warts and a few ulcerated cysts.

They picked up his feet one by one to perform a mani/pedi but didn’t ask the Luck Man, “What color?” Lucky looked like an Essie Tart Deco kind of guy to me (great nail polish for those of you who don’t indulge in manicures). As I watched my wonderful staff buzzing and buffing, Lucky looked like the Cowardly Lion getting coiffed before he was off to see the Wizard. It was his lucky Emerald City spa day!

And how great did he feel after his tubby and his blow dry? Like the King of the Forest. Or at least king of the grooming table.

Now on to Bright Spot, the 18-year-old long-hair calico (more like a long-mat calico). Her face could give Grumpy Cat a run at the box office. We gave Bright a lion cut, in keeping with the Oz theme. Now she parades around the clinic strutting her fab body and sporting her adorable full ruff, tail and fuzzy feet. This cat is AMAZING if she really is 18. We know she’s over 14; the rest is history.

Taking a Potty Break

The first day we let Bright Spot wander around the clinic, we lost her after about an hour. We knew she was in the safety of the nonpublic part of the building (wouldn’t want anyone to steal her or anything). We weren’t too worried, but where could she be?

While we continued the search for the missing ancient cat, there was a half scream/half laugh from the bathroom. Bright, now officially renamed Bridget, was sitting in the open shelf peeping out between the rolls of toilet paper, directly across from the toilet, staring at my technician on the potty.

Toilet paper catThis perch has now become Bridget’s “go to” spot. So when we go, she goes. We removed the toilet paper and put a little cat bed there.

It’s a little unsettling to be stared at while you relieve yourself, but we are getting used to it. I wonder where her perch was in her home of 18 years. Near the toilet, perhaps?

So what do Lucky, now known as Pappy, and Bridget think of their new surrounds? Do they miss their mistress who is now gone?

They certainly have a lot of activity in their new lives. Pappy is trying out a technician’s home, trying to keep up with a maniacal 1-year-old Border Terrier, and Bridget rules the roost and the toilet here at the hospital. Pappy spent Sunday afternoon lounging on the deck of the local VFW, making lots of new friends, most in Pappy’s own age demographic.

Plan Ahead

If there’s only one point to this story, it’s this: What if someone else’s home health aide calls me today and says the loving but aging Taffy, the 14-year-old Pomeranian, needs a home because Mrs. Shut-in has finally gone to the other side, leaving no instructions for poor Taffy? I would have to say there’s no room at this inn.

As I’ve discussed before, if you are involved with a geriatric person, please give some thought and discussion to the pets NOW. I’ve had healthy pets presented to me to be put down because old Aunt Dotty didn’t make it, and nobody wants her pets. Of course I refuse to do that — but somebody else won’t, and these pets will get euthanized.

As of this hour, Bridget and Pappy, aka“Lucky,” are, well, lucky!

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD

View posts by Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD
Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian who has split her time between a veterinary practice in Pelham, Massachusetts, and her studio in New York City. Dr. Lichtenberg is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with 30 years of experience. Her special interests are soft tissue surgery and oncology.

Please share this with your friends below:

Also Popular

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!