Thursday, April 6, 2006

Dr. Kennedy

We never want to think of the end of life until we must. Today I had to.

When my family and I picked out a beautiful, bouncing labrador puppy, no one was thinking of the day we'd have to say our goodbyes, thank her for eleven years of joy, and of course, mischief. No one thinks of endings at beginnings.

She was just my grandparent's dog, but she grew to be one of us, just one of the Vevodas around the table. However, today we knew Sassy Vevoda was on her way home and would not be here for another family gathering. We knew the kindest thing to do was to help her get there quickly. Unfortunately we needed a very heartless man's help.

I am not naive about the world of veterinary medicine. I know there is a lot of money to be made when the upset pet owner pleads, "do whatever you can." We walked into the Salinas Animal Hospital knowing we'd go home with an empty collar. We expressed this, but we were met with no compassion. Our very sick dog was accused of attempting to bite the vet as he painfully twisted her head to look in her eyes. We would need an eye exam and the dog would need to be muzzled. Our regular vet was insulted for making "assumptions" about our dog's arthritis, because the fact that she clearly was stiff and had problems getting up were not enough, we were told we would need to take x-rays for such a diagnosis to be made. When expressing concern over the cost of a procedure we were told, "I'm sure twenty two dollars won't break the bank," with no sympathy for our already strained financial state. When we were brought a paper to sign with a long list of procedures and would only agree to one, we heard the technician's rude remark through the closing door. We opted for no heartworm test, as it was expensive and we believed organ failure was the issue. We were asked several times to reconsider until we finally did. Sassy had kidney failure; we never needed that heartworm test.

The damage could have been worse. Perhaps Dr. Kennedy thought we got off easy, after all, we did weasel out of the x-ray and eye exam, but not without accusing glances and raised eye brows. It was a little over a mere three hundred dollars in the end to say goodbye to our dog. We held Sassy's head in our hands as she left us, and the clinic held our credit card. He patted my aunt's back and said some scripted, comforting lines, and as our dog took her last breath, he collected on our loss.

Of course I know this is a business and they have to make money, but a grieving pet owner should never be pressured into unnecessary tests. We confronted him about this after Sassy was safely on her way out of this world, and he simply said that his practice was very thorough, and how was he supposed to know she would have to be put down. We didn't expect any better response, we know the drill. The wound was open and their job is to bleed us for all we're worth.

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