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Cold feet, untimely death


4/2/08 - I found myself privileged to stay in bed, watching Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera. There was no alarm; this was my day off. Still, I had plenty to do, most of which required phone calls. I made my first call to the hospital, checking on my patients Pugsley and Elsa (the "misunderstood" dog from the previous night).

4/2/08 - I found myself privileged to stay in bed, watching Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera. There was no alarm; this was my day off. Still, I had plenty to do, most of which required phone calls. I made my first call to the hospital, checking on my patients Pugsley and Elsa (the "misunderstood" dog from the previous night).

The news was status quo for Pugsley, my technician's dog. The only debate was whether he looked more or less jaundiced. When my technician sat beside him in his kennel, he still did his Pug posterior wiggle, which was encouraging. One of my colleagues checked him during the morning and opted to add a steroid, in case his condition was immune-mediated. That's the benefit of being in a large practice. It was not something that had even crossed my list of differentials, which focused on toxins or infectious diseases. Based on my colleague's thoughts, more blood work was sent to the outside laboratory. With that, the waiting continued. I wanted to see if Pugsley would respond to the therapies that had been instituted.

Elsa, on the other hand, was still a mystery. An ultrasound was scheduled for later in the morning with our board-certified radiologist. If there truly was a foreign body just caudal to the stomach, the hope was that the radiologist would find it to confirm my suspicion before sending Elsa in for exploratory surgery.

A short while later, my husband text messaged a reminder that I promised to visit for lunch, and I had more phone calls to make. On the way to Columbia, I called our mortgage banker to relay unfortunate news from our realtor. She told us that we would not have enough up-front cash to afford the house we wanted, the second in our search for a new home. When I described the numbers that the client/realtor presented, the mortgage banker pointed out one major flaw: The numbers estimated for the closing costs were incorrect. The banker's numbers indicated that, with the seller's help, we would be just fine! We could afford this house! After asking our banker not once, but twice, to repeat the "bottom line," I excitedly and in quick succession called my husband, followed by the client/realtor.

That started a series of phone calls. In the meantime, I met my husband. He ate his lunch; I hardly touched my food. I was on the phone nearly the entire time. In 30 minutes, the deal went from a possibility to off the table. I was shocked to hear the client/realtor say that the sellers now did not want to sell to us for the list price of the house, which was what we offered. Their new thought, via their agent, was that the house would not appraise for as much as we offered. It seemed like another roadblock. I started to think that this might be a sign that it was not time for us to buy or that this was not the right house for us.

While explaining the news to my husband, I already was clicking through the contacts on my cell phone to call the mortgage banker back. I had to tell him, again, that the deal was off. He had another idea, which I, as a veterinarian, never would have thought of on my own. He suggested that we offer to purchase the home for the appraised value, as long as it is below the asking price. It seemed like a win-win to me! Seconds later, I called the client/realtor.

The phone rang only once. I verbally sped through what the mortgage banker had suggested. I was in a hurry to get our suggestion back to the selling agent.

Her response surprised me. She said, "But you'll have to pay for the appraisal." Wait a minute. Buyers always pay for the appraisal, or so that is what I read in my super-condensed primer on real estate transactions that the client/realtor gave me during our first visit. Looking across the table at my husband, I could see that he was getting annoyed. He could see the toll that this process had taken on our lives for the past two weeks. At that moment, while I still was on the phone with the client/realtor, he said, "That's enough." I told the client/realtor that I would call her back.

On the spot, Mark and I decided to stop the madness. It was apparent that we got into this ahead of schedule. We needed to buy a home in the time frame that was right for us.

As I drove home, the stress melted away. I phoned my mom to tell her that we decided to wait. She agreed that we were making a smart decision.

During the afternoon, I called to check on Pugsley. Learning there was no change, I tried to enjoy the rest of my day.

The next morning, Pugsley's kennel was empty. There was no name card in the holder on the front of the cage. The night technician told me that during the night, he had multiple seizures. She called my technician, who came in to say goodbye. Pugsley was euthanized shortly before 4 a.m.

I felt a deep loss, different than with other patients. While I always feel for the patients I am close with, this was my technician's dog. The bond that I have with my technician makes her pet seem like one of my own. After treating Pugsley for a week, monitoring him every day and trying every reasonable diagnostic and therapy, he was still lost. I don't know why.

We could not make a definitive diagnosis for Pugsley. I know that I tried valiantly to save him. That is all I can do for any of my clients' pets. With each new patient, I must focus on giving all that I have to their care and treatment. Each patient I see is loved by someone and is a family member. Remembering that, and remembering Pugsley, is what gets me through the difficult cases.

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