A fair portion of the joy that my job brings to me is attributable to the variety of patients I see. Not far behind that is the folks that share their pets with us and trust us in their care. It is a great privilege and honor to care for these animals that are so meaningful in the lives of their owners. It is an obligation that my staff and I take very seriously. There is, however, a great deal of fun to be had around Shepherd Spring Animal Hospital.
One recent moment of delight recently involved a lovely pet rat. Meeko was brought to my care by her tearful owner for euthanasia. Maria, my technician, gave me a “heads up” before I entered the somber exam room.
As I grabbed the chart and walked in I see a lovely young lady with tears welled up in her eyes on the other side of the exam table. Sitting quietly on her shoulder, cuddled up to her neck, was the sweetest little grey and white rat. Her little shinny black eyes studied me and I watched her little nose dance around between all those long whiskers as she scented the air of this of the exam room. The little rat appeared happy, healthy and precocious on the shoulder of her heartbroken owner.
It was the first time I had seen this particular little critter. My first impression was that this patient, still perched on her mom’s shoulder, was happy and healthy. But the feeling in the room was not one of well-being. I needed to start somewhere so I asked what was wrong with Meeko.
“I don’t want her to suffer any more, the tumor is growing quickly.” she said as I gently took the little creature from her shaking hands. I carefully palpated the mass, exploring the margins with my fingertips. All the while I was contemplating a way out of this for Meeko besides a funeral. The longer I studied the mass on the rat the more I couldn’t help but notice Maria, who was standing silently by my side, beginning to fidget. She already knew that I was cultivating another idea.
As I scratched her bald little ears I looked up at the worried young lady across the table and said, “You know, Meeko did not deserve this. These rats are bred to be lab specimens and are often much more prone to cancerous tumors.”
I knew that she had made the trip to the clinic to give a peaceful but heartbreaking end to her friend’s life to prevent extended suffering. I did not want to put her on the spot with other options for Meeko if her mind was made up. These are very hard times for one’s emotions and I don’t usually have knowlege of all the reasons why a person may have chosen euthanasia as their best option. The look on her face as I carefully handed our patient back was all I needed to proceed.
“Would you be willing to let me try to take that mass off of her leg? I believe we can do it and perhaps we can give you both some more quality time together. This doesn’t have to be the end.”, I half begged her to consider. I threw in a surgery cost offer that she couldn’t refuse. I wanted this little creature to stay as happy as she was.
“You could do surgery on her and fix her?” she said in disbelief.
“Not only can we do surgery but I believe we have a good chance of giving you two many more good times together”, I offered.
Off to my side I saw Marie smiling and starting to squirm. That girl is all about some surgery and a happy ending to a sad tale.
“When can you do it?”, she asked.
I replied that all she need to do was get with Alison, our receptionist, and work that part out. I assured her that we would do everything we could to help Meeko get better.
Meeko went home bright eyed that evening and returned the next week for us to remove the sutures from the healing incision. She was in such a playful, spunky mood that we had to gas her to sleep in order to get her still so I could remove the tiny sutures. She woke up and went back to her happy ways within five minutes.
Meeko is all healed and doing well I am happy to report. I add this story to my blog because many people don’t consider a rat to be anything but yucky. All of these little spirits are special to me however. Perhaps we should all open our eyes to the wonders of the animal kingdom and understand that all creatures are capable, in their own way, of speaking to us. Perhaps then we can all begin to understand that it is even possible to wuv a wittle wat.