When an animal ‘pays it forward’

Submitted to The Dorchester Banner Elvis the cat was a treasured pet and will long be remembered.

Submitted to The Dorchester Banner
Elvis the cat was a treasured pet and will long be remembered.

EAST NEW MARKET – After 25 years of practicing veterinary medicine, I can honestly say that occasionally I am humbled. The last week of June 2018 was one such week.

Being a veterinary practice owner isn’t for the faint of heart. We have good intentions of healing pets and helping their owners, but we have a tremendous debt burden, which means we have to charge for all of this good will.

Just three months after the practice opened, in September of 2004, a person driving a pick-up truck came frantically running in the front door. He was a contractor leaving a job site, and as he was driving down the road he began to hear a screaming cat. The sound was coming from his engine compartment. He drove directly to the closest vet, and that happened to be us.

There was a little two-pound kitten trapped in the engine compartment of his truck. My technician and I got to work, carefully extracting the tiny frightened cat from behind the fan belt. I estimated the little fella to be about 10 weeks old. He was in shock, had severe left sided facial trauma and was in a lot of pain.

The man in the pick-up truck said he had to be on his way and he hoped we could help the poor thing … or maybe we should just end his suffering. He left quickly, declining any responsibility and not even offering a thank you. Granted, I could have just put the poor thing out of his misery but instead I treated him for shock and head trauma and put him in a dark warm cage.

He slept for two days. When he woke up from his deep sleep, he was hungry and thankful and playful. I decided we would keep him as the hospital cat, and I named him “Elvis,” because I joked that he would never “leave the building.”

Elvis, our hospital cat became quite a celebrity. He was a blood donor twice, once in 2005 and once in 2007. When he tipped the scales in 2008 at 18-pounds, he became the poster child for “Elvis Fit Club,” joining the “Catkins Diet,” which is a low carb high protein diet we jokingly employ for overweight kitties.

Elvis slimmed down to 15 lbs. In 2010, when he again tipped the scales at 19-pounds, we decided that maybe he was just happy as “1970s Elvis,” very famous and a little thick around the midline.

Elvis had a wonderful personality. He absolutely loved people and was not in the least bit intimidated by other animals. He was very confident and also empathetic. He always seemed to know when a pet parent was sad, as you would see him on the parking lot or in the waiting room spreading good will.

He was also known to walk people in the front door, then he would make a path to the food bowl in the treatment room, and then out the back door he would go, to greet more customers. I always enjoyed coming over on Christmas or Thanksgiving morning to give Elvis a special treat. I never thought about the practice without Elvis. He was after all a tenured employee, our hospital ambassador.

In late April of 2018, Elvis didn’t seem himself. In the veterinary world, we call this “ADR” (Ain’t Doing Right). I performed a thorough physical and did full bloodwork. All of the tests were normal. By early June, he had lost two pounds, and this time he wasn’t on the Elvis Fit Club plan.

We noticed him sleeping more during the day and we noticed his food bowl still full in the morning. It all happened so fast, and this is just what my clients tend to share with me when their beloved pet becomes ill… “How could this happen so fast, just last week Scruffy seemed fine.”

By late June Elvis was in a hospital cage with an IV fighting to breathe against a tired heart muscle. It’s called cardiomyopathy, and in cats its also known as the silent killer. Bloodwork will be normal, the heart beat sounds normal, and in some cases X-rays are normal.

Our Elvis couldn’t breathe and was extremely weak, but I kept thinking that each new medicine I administered to him would somehow miraculously cure him. I even toyed with taking him over the bridge to the cardiologist. And then I woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday June 30, and I thought to myself, Cabin Creek Animal Hospital was the only home that Elvis ever knew, and I didn’t’ want to take him anywhere else for advanced care. I realized what I had to do. Elvis was suffering and it wasn’t fair.

It’s humbling to be “on the other side” of the exam table, experiencing all of the grief and troubling questions that my clients do. I arrived at the animal hospital just before the sun came up on Saturday June 30. I was all alone and I will spare you the details but I will say that Elvis and I had a great conversation as the sun was coming up and the birds were singing.

We took a walk around the property, but he had to take a lot of rest breaks…that’s just how weak he was. It was about 6:40 in the morning when I bid him goodbye right on our front porch, one of his favorite places.

I’ve been on the bay bridge before when the car in front of me has paid my toll, or in line for a coffee and the clerk tells me that someone has “paid it forward,” no charge. When I think of Elvis and his role here at our animal hospital ­— as the official greeter, comforter of the suffering, and provider of comic relief when we needed a smile — I think back to how he got his start with us.

We did a good deed and saved his life. He in turn “paid it forward,” taking the support we gave him and giving back to my staff and our clients for 14 years.

Rest in Peace sweet Elvis, the original and official Ambassador of Cabin Creek Animal Hospital.

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