Adventures in Veterinary Medicine

My Thank You to My Readers: Get Adventures in Veterinary Medicine FREE this Weekend!

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The Conscious Cat wouldn’t be what it is without all of you who read, comment and share each and every day. And to thank you for all of your support, I’m making my newest book, Adventures in Veterinary Medicine: What Working in Veterinary Hospitals Taught Me About Life, Love and Myself, available as a free download this holiday weekend.

The book offers a unique look at what really goes on in a veterinary hospital through the eyes of a former veterinary hospital manager, aka, yours truly. It provides insight into what makes veterinary medicine such a rewarding profession through a series of stories about some of the pets I connected with during my twelve years working in the field.Continue Reading

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine: FREE Download, Today Only!

Adventures_in_Veterinary_Medicine

To celebrate the release of my latest book, Adventures in Veterinary Medicine: What Working in Veterinary Hospitals Taught Me About Life, Love and Myself, I’m offering the book as a free download today.

The book offers a unique look at what really goes on in a veterinary hospital through the eyes of a former veterinary hospital manager, aka, yours truly. The book provides insight into what makes veterinary medicine such a rewarding profession through a series of stories about some of the pets I connected with during my twelve years working in the field.Continue Reading

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine Now Available for Kindle

Adventures_in_Veterinary_Medicine

It’s here! I’m super excited to announce that my new book, Adventures in Veterinary Medicine:What Working in Veterinary Hospitals Taught Me About Life, Love, and Myself  is now available for Kindle. If you don’t have a Kindle, don’t worry. You can download a free reading app to read this and other Kindle books on your PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet and smartphone.

The book offers a unique look at what really goes on in a veterinary hospital through the eyes of a former veterinary hospital manager, aka, yours truly. The book provides insight into what makes veterinary medicine such a rewarding profession through a series of stories about some of the pets I connected with during my twelve years working in the field.

Praise for Adventures in Veterinary Medicine

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine has already received advance praise from several high profile veterinarians.Continue Reading

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine – Finding a New Vet

For the first time in over fifteen years, I find myself in a position of having to find a new vet for Allegra and any future feline family members, and I’m finding that it’s not an easy thing to do.  During the years I worked in veterinary hospitals, I always had an up close and personal knowledge of the vets who worked on Feebee, Amber and Buckley, from their medical skills and proficiency to their dedication and “bedside manner.”  I thought I’d never find better vets than the husband and wife team who owned the practice I managed for eight years.  Janet and Jack were the kinds of veterinarians you read about in James Herriot-style books. They were both completely dedicated to their profession. In addition to practicing exceptional, cutting edge medicine, they had elevated the art of compassionate care for their furry patients and their humans to levels that are rare even in a profession that is based on caring for animals.  There were many nights when, instead of leaving a sick pet at the practice overnight, they’d take him home and watch over him in their bedroom or bathroom.  Both of them loved their work, and they were always learning and growing in their fields.  They were a tough act to follow. 

When I left their practice to start my own business, I began looking for a new vet.  The clinic I had worked at was a forty-five minute drive from home, and neither Amber nor Buckley ever did well on the long drive.  I never thought I’d find someone as good as Janet and Jack.  And then I met Fern (some of you already know Fern from my book, from some of the articles she’s written for The Conscious Cat, and from our first Ask the Vet teleseminar).  Fern and I hit it off immediately.  Not only were her practice philosophies in synch with what I was looking for, she is the consummate cat vet, and one of the most brilliant people I ever met.  And even better, we became very good friends in a very short time.  Unfortunately, she recently had to make the difficult decision to retire, at least for the foreseeable future, from her beloved profession due to a family health problem.  While I am fortunate that she will always be available to me for advice or a second opinion, I still need to find a new vet, since she’s not currently affiliated with a hospital and can’t do much beyond basic physical exams without that affiliation.  As you might expect, with my background, my standards of what I expect in a vet are very high. 

I’ve previously written about how to tell whether your vet is cat-friendly, and how to choose the right vet for your pet.  One of the things I always stress when I talk to people about this subject is that I think it’s a good idea to make an appointment without your pet when evaluating a veterinary clinic.  By going to see potential vets without your cat, you will be more relaxed.  Ask for a tour of the hospital.  If you want to speak with a veterinarian, offer to pay for an office visit.  Most vets won’t charge you for this introductory visit, but it sets the right tone for a future relationship of mutual respect.  Come prepared with a list of questions.  Some of the questions I’ll be asking on my search are:

  • How many veterinarians are at the practice?
  • Will I always see the same vet?
  • Are there vets at the practice that specialize in working with cats, or that have a preference for working with cats?
  • Are they open to holistic modalities, even if they don’t practice them?
  • Are appointments required?
  • How are emergencies handled?
  • What is their policy for visiting hospitalized pets?
  • Are diagnostic services such as x-rays, blood work, ultrasound, EKG, endoscopy done in-house, or will they be referred to a specialist?
  • Do the veterinarians use VIN (the Veterinary Information Network)?  This is generally an indicator that they’re interested in pursuing continuing education and that they are staying on top of the latest developments in their profession.

I’ve narrowed my own search down to two hospitals – one of them a feline-only practice, which is what I would prefer, but it is further from home than I would like (about a half hour’s drive), the other a small animal practice with a terrific reputation much closer to home.  I’ll let you know which one I pick when it’s time for Allegra’s first check up.

Picture shows Allegra on the day I first met her, on an exam table at the veterinary clinic I adopted her from.

Adventures in Veterinary Medicine – Virginia

As those of you who read Buckley’s Story know, Buckley was my office cat at the animal hospital I managed for eight years before she came to live with Amber and I.   She wasn’t the first one, though.  Not the first tortie, and not the first office cat.  Before Buckley, and even before Amber, there was Virginia.

I first met Virginia when I went for my first interview for the hospital manager position at the Middleburg Animal Hospital.   The hospital was then owned by Drs. Jack Love and Janet McKim, a husband and wife team.  I had spoken to Janet on the phone briefly before my interview, but really didn’t know what to expect.  This was in the days before every animal hospital had a website.  I knew what I was looking for in a potential employer as far as practice philosophy, and in addition, I was looking for a clinic that had that intangible right “feel.”

As soon as I walked into the waiting room of the hospital, I knew I had found the right place.   There was an old-fashioned wooden bench, a rocking chair, and the walls were covered with photos of dogs and cats.  A large free-standing cage held several kittens.  When Janet came up to greet me, I was even more sure.  I instantly liked her.  She took me back to her office and began the interview.

After a few minutes, a beautiful tortoiseshell cat walked into the office.  “That’s Virginia,” explained Janet.  “She’s one of our two hospital cats.”  Virginia proceded to walk over to me, looked up at me, and then dug her claws into my legs and used them as a scratching post.  I wondered whether that was part of the interview – a test, perhaps, to see how I would react?  In hindsight, I realized that, of course, this was the moment she marked me as her own.  I had dressed up for the interview and was wearing a skirt and pantihose – I can honestly say it was the first and only time in my life I left an interview with runs in my pantihouse caused by kitty claws!  The interview went well, and I left feeling hopeful that I would be offered the job.

A couple of weeks later, Janet called to invite me to go out to dinner with her and Jack.  We sealed the deal over dinner, and I spent the next eight wonderful years working at the Middleburg Animal Hospital.  And the fact that Virginia was part of the deal only increased my happiness.

She was estimated to be about ten years old.  She was FIV positive.  FIV is the feline version of the aids virus.  It is contagious, but is primarily spread through bite wounds.  Casual, non-aggressive contact does not spread the virus, and it is not zoonotic, which means it cannot be spread from cat to humans.  However, Virginia’s owners were not comfortable keeping an FIV positive cat and had left her at the animal hospital for euthanasia.  Somehow, the hospital staff never got around to it, and by the time someone remembered, she had wormed her way into too many hearts for them to go through with it.

Virginia was the poster child for “tortitude” – that unique personality of tortoiseshell cats.  She had definitely read the manual.  She was feisty, independent, and set in her ways.  The only other animal she liked was Marmy, our other hospital cat, a sweet, wise old medium-haired orange cat.  You could often find Marmy in his cat bed, with Virginia curled around him, squeezed into the small bed with him.

She liked most of the staff members, but this was not always mutual.  She thought nothing of using her claws if she felt like someone wasn’t doing her bidding (ie, petting her properly, feeding her on her schedule, or committing any number of transgressions only she knew about).  None of these were exactly the kinds of  qualities you’d look for in a hospital cat!  At one point, early on during my time as manager, there was talk of sending her to a nearby sanctuary for FIV positive cats.  I was nervous about doing so, but I set an ultimatum:  if Virginia went, so would I.  Thankfully, by then Janet and Jack had come to rely on me, and took my “threat” seriously.  Virginia got to stay.

She loved me fiercely.  She would be at the door to greet me each morning.  When I took a few days off, the staff would tell me that she’d been looking for me, and when I returned to work, the look on her face made it clear that she did not appreicate being abandoned like that.  She had her routine, and it didn’t vary much from day to day.  In the morning, she’d sleep in a cat bed I had placed in front of a sunny window on my desk, next to my computer.  She’d spend most mornings napping, but she also made sure that I paid attention to her, often clawing at my “mouse hand” to get my attention.  As lunch time got closer, she would park herself on the bench in the exam room adjacent to my office, where most of the staff gathered for lunch each day.  She loved to mooch off of peoples’ lunches, with morsels of meat or cold cuts and yogurt, especially peach flavored, being favorites.

For four years, she made my office my home away from home.  She showed no symptoms of her disease.   Then, in the spring of 2002, she started to decline rapidly.  She seemed to lose energy, and her always healthy appetite started to wane.  She couldn’t make it to the litterbox in time and had frequent accidents outside the box.  She wouldn’t come to greet me at the door in the mornings.  An ultrasound showed that her heart and liver were in bad shape.

On a sunny April morning, we decided that it was time.  I spent her last morning in the office with her in her bed by my side.  When I wasn’t crying, I was calling staff members who were not on duty that day to let them know, in case they wanted to be present for her final moments.   I held her on my lap in the office, surrounded by all the people who had been a part of her world, as she took her last breath.  I don’t think there are many cats who got the kind of send off she did.

I still miss her.  The photo above was on my desk at the animal hospital until I left; now, it’s on a shelf in my office here at home.  She was my introduction to and beginning of my love affair with torties.  She still has a piece of my heart.