Monday, September 14, 2009

The Fate of Shmobie, Trouble in a Simple Life

This is Part II or the conclusion to Another Strange Day at the Compound.

If you don't feel like reading this I understand...I can't blame you. Don't feel bad. This story got way too long and turned into my personal nightmare to write up after I decided to do it. But I am following through with what I started. I won't torture anyone with anything like this again. So on that note:

My ghastly visions of a black and white and bloody cat torn to pieces plagued my dreams all night. A fitful, unsatisfying slumber was all I could achieve with the random thoughts of my strangely injured kitty filling all the corners of my sleeping mind.

At 11 p.m. I had carefully carried the softly growling Shmobie out to the office and placed him on a warm blanket atop the guest bed. He immediately settled himself into the endless circle that cats form with their bodies, head touching tail-nose touching feet, round and round they spiral into themselves. He was safe for the moment and quietly resting in his own infinity. That was all I could ask for.

But upon wakening in the morning, I immediately trotted out to check on Shmo and see if he was still alive. After those nightmare-like dreams I had to see for myself. Peeking in the door, I found him sitting with his head up, looking at me with one of those pained expressions cats can make.

I know he knew I was coming. If Shmo is forgotten in the office, under normal circumstances he greets me at the door in the morning. He's not psychic, it is just that the gravel approach to the door gives me away every time. Crunch, crunch, crunch my feet pad across the rocks making rustling sounds. There is no sneaking possible. But the important thing was that cat looked OK. He was not moving, but I could say he looked no worse than the night before.

Sighing in relief, my heart palpitations quieting to normal, I quickly formulated my plan. A brief internet search for veterinarians open on Saturday gave me the location of a practice I had never been to before, but I had to take my pet somewhere quickly I figured. They would be open at 8:30 so I got my kids ready and the cat prepared to transport to the clinic and be the first "people" seen.

With the cat in a giant plastic storage box and two kids strapped into car seats, I drove to the vet listening to Shmobie's cat yodeling in octaves that are not meant for human ears. We arrived at the clinic and I immediately noticed the newly paved parking lot with fresh, bright white lines marking the parking spaces. The clinic staff greeted us at the door as I carried the cumbersome see through box containing my cat to the entrance. We went inside the brown shingled, low-roofed building and filled out paperwork, then were shuffled into an exam room where Shmo could come out of his box.

The prisoner in black and white spots walked around the room sniffing as only a cat can and he spent a considerable amount of time looking closely at the seams formed by the door cracks. Escape would be preferable to the cold, stainless steel table in the center of the room. I knew that was what he was thinking. As he walked he limp on his left foreleg and hind leg.

Meanwhile, with both kids in the exam room, there was the added joy of a steady stream of questions like, "Is Shmobie going to be OK? Where is the vet? How long do we have to stay here? Are they going to keep Shmo? and so on..." Then the vet made his appearance and introduced himself.

After some cursory questions, the vet and his assistant begin their detailed inspection of Shmo. The veterinarian, a man about my age looked at Shmo's leg where the fur was missing, at his head where a bald spot was scalped, and finally took a look at his rear, while Shmo growled and hissed violently. There were miniature arrows with poison dart frog juice on the tips flying from Shmo's eyes as he glared at the pair of them.

Then the vet looked up and casually suggested that he work up a quote for a drain and stitches. He said he could not tell if the cat had any internal injuries or had bleeding organs so blood tests were needed before he could do surgery. But he recommended sewing the cat up under anesthesia and keeping him for over night care. I waited in the exam room with my gang of three. Impatience was rampant and the kids and cat were looking for any way out of the room, but finally the receptionist said it was ready.

I walked out leaving Shmo in the exam room and directed the kids to the play table in the waiting area so I could look at the bill in private. I picked up the freshly printed proposal and nearly choked up a furball. The bottom line read $807.00.

Immediately my hackles were raised and I was angry. How on earth could a surgery on a cat cost this much, but I did not pull out my machine gun and start firing. I wanted to be fair. But 800 dollars was outrageous. Extortion over a loved pet!! I love my cat but I also have some limits.

Looking over the bill I immediately saw things that could be eliminated from the procedure. I am not a vet, but have played one on TV. I have enough common sense to determine that the cat did not need 100 dollars in vaccine updates to have surgery. And there were a series of blood tests that were really not necessary either.

What was really going on here?

On a whim I decided to call over to my "normal" vet to see if they were in the office. Sometimes there are staff there for patients who are in the hospital for the weekend.

I listened to the ringing on the other end of the line, three, four, five rings, no answer. But then "Hello, -----veterinary Hospital." And voila, there was a friendly voice on the other end of my cell phone. Unbelievable.

I excused my self from the vet clinic office and walked out the front door to talk. "Hi," I said, "I have a cat with an injury and am wondering if you can give me a quote for some procedures that he may need. I did not realize you were open today.... Can we go over some costs? Yes, thanks. How much do you charge for anesthesia? Oh, that's half of what this clinic is charging." We proceeded to go through the flaming invoice I held and determined their clinic would charge roughly 400 for the same procedure and I stated, "I am bringing my cat to you, OK?"

Walking back into the over priced vet practice, with a look of disgust on my face I addressed the administrative staff immediately. "This quote is too high. I'm taking my cat elsewhere," I told the petite gal dressed in cute pink scrubs.

She blinked her long eye lashes a couple times while staring at me and then said in a whisper, "I don't blame you. They charge a lot here. I would too."

Then, as if on cue, the vet breezed back into the reception area wearing dollar signs on his glasses. The color green was in his sights, or so he thought.

"I'm taking my cat now," I told him with certainty. "You're quote is too high for me. I can't spend that kind of money." My eyebrows were raised while I looked him in the eye. My six foot height did not make it difficult to seem intimidating.

Then the veterinarian backed up a few feet and told me, "Well maybe your cat will be OK if you just flush his wound with a Betadine solution... Uhhhh, or if you just give him antibiotics he might make it. There is a chance he could survive without the drain. It is possible he could make it with medicine alone." I was amazed that this stammering vet was attempting to save a sale, or so it seemed.

"Well, thank you. That's all," I told him as I payed my 50 dollars for his expert analysis of my cat with a hole in his buttock.

Then with Shmobie in his box, covered with a sheet and two kids squawking like baby chicks at my side, I fluffed up as only a mother hen can and took my brood away from the blood sucking leach who was passing himself as a veterinarian.

So there were were again. The three of us, my two kids and I, were driving down the main street in town, but this time with a fourth member in our posse. The temperatures were rising fast and the day promised to be scorching. Shmobie was again screaming at us about his predicament. My ears were slowly starting to drip blood with every painful meow.

Shmobie was trapped in a plastic see through storage box wrapped with a sheet for a lid. The sides of the sheet were tucked tightly under the box and his weight alone was keeping it secure. His concept of motion was limited to where he can go with his own four feet. The current situation left him slightly disgruntled and he was pushing with his head against the sheet trying to burrow his way out of the box like a rodent.

Under duress, we drove for 10 minutes to reach my normal vet office and went through the unloading process all over again. I wish I had known they were open in the first place. The office staff admitted Shmo and told me that Dr. Laurie would look at him in between patients since they were overbooked. I reluctantly left my cat, feeling a dreadful sinking in my belly and a sense of worry with this disconnect from my friend. Things were just not going our way and it did not seem like they would get any better. But I had no other options at that point. I had to leave him and wait.

The office assistant told me, "Dr. will give you a call after she has looked at your cat. We won't do anything without your permission." And on those assurances we walked out leaving Shmo and hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

"Ella. Wyatt. Let's go to the store while we wait to see what the Dr. says about Shmo. OK? Load up." And down the block we drove to assault the market.

"How about some pop sickles kids?" I asked as we went down the frozen food isle. We grabbed two boxes of pops and joyful smiles erupted on cherub faces. We filled the grocery cart with the staples like milk, bread, and apples; and I contained my children from pulling stuff off the shelves and pensively thought about my cat.

Then the phone rang once and was silent. Damn. Looking at the screen I saw the number from the clinic on the digital readout. Drat. Why did it only ring once? I missed the vet's call. Now what?

"Beep." The phone chirped at me again. It was a voice mail! Hallelujah!

I dialed into the messages and punched my code in as fast as my giant fingers could manage with the tiny numbers on the keypad. The factual voice of my vet began, "Hi Julia. I looked at your cat and he has an abscess. I don't think that hole has anything to do with him getting into a scrape with a car. We can give him some antibiotics and he will be fine. If I put a drain in him, as suggested by the other vet, the size of it would be as big as the hole that is already there. Shmo is ready for you to pick up when you can get back to the clinic. He will be fine in about a week with the medication."

Relief! Gratitude? Exasperation. All kinds of thoughts flooded my mind while walking through the produce aisle, herding my kids from impending disaster. Wyatt could bring an entire pile of apples down on his head so I was wearing my multi-tasking cape of mommy avenger.

But my cat was going to be OK without surgery and a huge bill. We hustled back to the clinic and collected my cat for a short journey home. His screaming about travel did not bother me half so much since I was ecstatic that we only paid 73 additional dollars for his antibiotics and pain killer.

What made me so upset about this entire episode was the underhanded audacity of the 1st veterinarian. Playing upon owners emotions and suckering them into procedures that are not necessary, I am sure he makes a living extorting money from his patients owners by pulling at their heart strings. Ordinary soft-hearted, easily swayed pet owners could easily be persuaded to spend outrageous amounts of money on their pets. Luckily, I have financial limits for my pets, even though they are an important part of our family, and my disgust at seeing a bill for over 800 dollars almost sent me into a conniption fit in the veterinarian-scoundrel's office. Compound that with his staff member's comments that "he charges too much" and my vet's analysis of NO SURGERY and I felt like driving back to that guy's office to tell him how awful he really was.

But in the end Shmo spent five days on lock down taking his medicine like a good boy and has returned to the land of the living. My personal analysis of his strange injuries could be attributed to: 1. abscess forming on his rear. 2. he got clipped by a car. 3. being clipped by car ruptured the abscess that was on the way to bursting already. So seemingly related events were not truly cause and effect in the way that makes sense. But isn't that how many things are if you look close enough?

"I am fine. Please, don't look at my butt!"


Sharkbytes said...

Wow- what a story! My Maggie needs a huge fatty lipoma taken off at some point, and I am really wondering how I can pay for that, with the estimate from a vet I do trust. The expense of an animal is kinda out of control. I'm really glad that Shmobie is going to be ok though.

I mailed your fleece throw today.

Yaya said...

Yup, vet number 1 sounds like all the vets in our area. That's why I choose to drive all the way to the other side of the city to a vet that is actually a decent human being.

Glad your kitty is ok!

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

Sounds like the 1st guy is trying to pay off his college bills and a summer home! I've been around vets like that and I don't care for them. My horse vet used to joke that cats heal faster than any other animal.

Ms Snarky Pants said...

OMMMMMMMMGGGGGGGG I'm so incredibly angry for you!!! We used to go to a vet's office where they would over charge like that. Then we moved one town over (5 miles) to a more rural community and take our pets here. It's amazing how much cheaper it is! I think it's because the people in this area just aren't willing to pay insane bills for their pets so the vet is more sensible. Whatever the reason is I'm glad of the less expensive prices!

A pox on that moron vet who was going to charge you 700 bucks too much!

Sara said...

Glad Schmo is going to be okay. Abscesses are no fun on kitties. My dad has a dozen cats and during my visit with him I found an abscess on his favorite cat, Ben, face. We opened it and applied betadine and he was fine in a few days. On the flip side, I paid $450 for my rabbit fly-strike incident, cause the cheap vets don't treat rabbits in my area.

Leigh said...

YAY! So glad he's ok! And I'm so glad you were able to take the common sense approach and still save him.

Grand Pooba said...

Oh man, being the daughter in law of a vet I totally get what you're saying about the bills! Some clinics take advantage of their unkowing patients and then they don't even do the procedures correctly and the owners end up having to take their animal to our clinic to fix it!

Whew! I'm so glad Schmo is doing well! Poor little Schmo and his sad little bum hole!

Rural Rambler said...

Julia I am so happy that the Shmobie cat is doing great. And shame on that vet, we had our share of them in St. Louis. There were fair and great vets there too but when you are heartbroken over an animal hurting or a person we shouldn't have to worry about having to search one out.

Shmo you have a fine lookin' butt!

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

HOW did I miss this post?

That vet was outrageous! There are some really bad vets in this world. I mean, rotten. We have gone to a lot of vets since we moved constantly. And many were terrible, a lot of cheats and a lot of greedy ones. But that one takes the cake. I am so glad you had the presence of mind to call your own vet. Bless that vet and also little Shmo and all of his remaining lives.

DayPhoto said...

Shame on that vet! SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! I am so tired of vets and doctors to just plain take advantage of people! TIRED!

We have two really good decent vets and our family doctor is wonderful. But we went through years of trying to find these people. If they hadn't moved into our area...


Pricilla said...

I am glad you stood up for yourself and your pet. Some Vets are just awful just like some doctors are just awful.

I am very pleased to read he is OK.

Vixen said...

I am certainly glad he is okay. I have had a similar experience with an overpriced emergency vet when my chihuahua got mauled by a coyote trying to protect us in our fenced yard. They started the quote at "we don't know if he will live, but if he does our estimate is $4,952". He did live (at another vet) for the bargain price of $950. But it was awful to feel like I was going to have to let the dog die because I didn't have 5 grand. They make me so angre.

Mountain Woman said...

I think that's why it's really hard to deal with anyone other than your own vet and you really have to know your stuff to be able to question the charges. I'm so glad you were able to stand up for yourself and find better care and then in the end, it turned out to be an abscess so how much would your poor cat have suffered with that terrible vet.

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