Five Women and a Cat

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It was the last appointment of 2015. There we were – five women and a cat named Valentino. The name Valentino, comes from the latin word “valens” which means, he who has value. It was a most appropriate name for this loving, sweet natured orange tabby cat. Years ago, he’d had a mass surgically removed. The procedure was subsidized by The Farley Foundation, a charity that helps reduce the cost of non-elective veterinary care for disabled people, seniors on social assistance, and abused women entering registered women’s shelters. Like many folks who could really use the financial help, Valentino’s mom was reluctant to accept it; she did not want to deprive someone else that may need the funds more than herself. Her concern for others, was exactly the reason that she so deserved to benefit from this wonderful charity.

The driver paced the waiting room, brought his arm down on the front counter, “Can you hurry up?” he said.
“We’re doing our best.” was the honest reply, although I suppose it would have been most honest to say, No, we can’t hurry up. There is no room for impatience in death.

In the exam room, our ritual played out as we spoke of Valentino’s life – the recent insidious weight loss, the puddles of bloody fluid found around the house that morning, what a great companion he’d been, how many girlfriends he’d had … how many broken hearts he would leave behind. When it was over, Valentino’s mom left the room, the whisper of her wheelchair motor the only sound as she glided through the doorway like a gentle breeze.

The front door of the clinic closed on the end of another year. Two grieving women headed home, while the other three finished their day’s work. Our lives moving on in different directions, but forever bound together by a cat named Valentino.

Starting the New Year at a healthy weight!

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As we all look forward to the New Year, and wish everyone a healthy, prosperous New Year.   I myself know that I have eaten my fair share, more then I normally would, all the cookies, and turkey dinners, and then of course the yummy leftovers.  Not to mention the Christmas work parties and invites over to the neighbor’s.

So just like us, our pets get a little overweight, some more than others.  Hey, it’s cold outside, it’s also often too icy to walk.  We still feed them the same amount, not thinking that they are getting less exercise.  I know, I did the same with my dogs, one of my dogs became quite the chunker last year.  So she joined the

We put her on a safe restricted diet, and she would work out on the treadmill 3 times a week.  She did very well on the treadmill and it didn’t take long before she became quite the runner.  She lost weight safely and has a fit trim body now.  Keeping the weight off is the key, and making sure she doesn’t climb up again with her weight.

When you live with your pet and see them every day, you don’t notice the weight gain, it sneaks up.  It happens with us too, believe me…lol.

Obesity is a disease, the good news is that obesity is a treatable disease. It can be a challenge for your pet to lose the weight, but it can be done.  The old saying always pops into my head “It’s best to be cruel sometimes to be kind”.   Some people feel they are being kind giving treats all the time, and that can include people food too.  They think they are being cruel if they don’t give that piece of pizza crust, or chunk of cheese.

So next time they look at you with those sad puppy eyes, tell them that you love them, and because you do, they cannot have that chunk of cheese, but a carrot instead.


Raccoon Rumble

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It was an unseasonably warm December day for Southwestern Ontario. A beautiful afternoon to be outside, and that’s exactly where Charlie and Abby wanted to be. They were in the kitchen, toenails clicking as they circled and shifted, their whining breath fogging the glass of the back door. Jane finished putting away the last of the clean dishes and folded the tea towel over the oven handle.
“Hang on you two. I’m coming,” she said.
She looked out the door, and saw what it was that had the dogs so worked up. Len, the neighbourhood bunny stalker, was on the roof of the shed. He was stretched out in all his orange tabby cat glory, his eyes closed against the warm sun. Jane opened the sliding back door and the dogs took off as if someone had shot a starter’s gun. Len jerked his head in their direction, leaped to the fence and disappeared into the neighbouring yard. Charlie and Abby skid just short of the fence, barking like mad fools.
“They look quite pleased with themselves,” Jane thought as she closed the door and turned back to her dinner preparations.
Minutes later, a fierce noise erupted in the yard.
“Ugh – what are those two up to now?” she wondered.
She quickly realized it was not their usual sound of alarm, like when someone walked by the side gate. This barking was much more intense. Then, a third voice was thrown into the mix; it was high pitched and hissing.
“Oh no – Len!” Jane ran to the back door.
But it wasn’t Len.
It was a raccoon, and there was a lot of blood.

This story is fictional, but based on an incident that played out in Hamilton earlier this month. On December 2, two dogs had a significant altercation with a raccoon that was later confirmed positive for rabies. Five days after this, three more rabies positive raccoons were confirmed in the area. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), distributes wildlife rabies vaccine baits in specific areas, to help protect our wildlife against rabid raccoons that cross the border into Canada. MNRF initiated hand and aerial baiting in the Hamilton area on December 7.
What steps can you take to avoid exposure where you live?
1. avoid contact with potentially rabid wildlife such as skunks, fox, raccoons and bats
2. keep your pets up to date on their rabies vaccinations
Rabies is a fatal disease – please protect yourself and your pets!

Ducks and Chickens, oh my!

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Growing up in a small town in England, we were lucky to have our own ducks and chickens.  We used to keep them at the bottom of the garden.  It was very common for people in our town to have their own ducks and chickens in their backyards.  We had a pond for the ducks, and a shed where we locked them all up for the night.  The chickens used to peck around all day, and the ducks would usually be sunning themselves after a dip in the pond.  They all lived together in harmony, a few feathers were ruffled over food occasionally, but that was all.

The chickens and ducks all had names and had their own personality.   The chickens were the regular brown laying hens and they would lay every morning.  My sister and I would rush down every morning to grab the eggs.  The ducks were Muscovy ducks. They didn’t quack like a regular duck, but they did waddle like a regular duck. They would hiss like a snake and bob their heads back and forth.  The ducks were great sitters and would sit forever if you didn’t remove the eggs.  We had a duck who sat on chicken eggs, and when the eggs hatched they followed her around like she was their mother.

They were pets, and we loved them.  They became very tame and we could pick them up and cuddle them.  We had one duck we named Tinkerbell and we were very fond of her.  She was mainly white and had such a sweet way about her.  I remember when she got old and became ill, we brought her into our house and nursed her till she passed.   She would get a warm mash every day, and we had soft blankets for her to rest her tired body.

I have very fond memories of our house and life in Ampthill.  My mum was a single mum raising two wild teenage girls.  The animals grounded us.  We not only had ducks and chickens, we had dogs and ponies too.  We were members of our local pony club and went to shows or events most weekends.

All our dogs came from the local SPCA, mutts, the Heinz 57’s, all great dogs.  We had one dog called Whisp, who came to us as a cruelty case. She had been left locked up in a shed; she was a walking skeleton, starving for not only food, but also for love.

Whisp was an amazing dog.  We fed her up, and she got lots of love. The one thing we could not train out of her was her gluttony.  She would jump on counter tops to steal food.  She once opened our fridge and ate the cooked Christmas turkey but left the stuffing mind you!

I remember all my friends would be going into town and buying all the newest fashions, I once asked my mum why we couldn’t go out and buy all the newest fads.  She turned and asked me if my friends had their own pony, or had all the animals we had.  I then realized that we were truly blessed and that I wouldn’t swap our animals for any new fashion item.

All hands and paws on deck!

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All hands and paws on deck!

It’s all about team work when working in a busy animal hospital.  Yes we all have our positions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t help when needed.   It can be the technicians answering calls, invoicing clients out, to us all trying to hold a fractious cat for a nail trim.

I myself love helping in the back as we call it, the treatment room, where all the action happens.  Animals are my passion, so I feel blessed to be able to work with them every day.  When I am asked to help hold, or hold off a vein while blood is taken, I do so with gusto.

My favorite is helping prep for surgery, from holding off a vein for a catheter to be placed, to holding their mouths open so the technician can incubate. I love watching the hustle and bustle of the team at work.  The flow and coordination is a beautiful thing to see.

I also love to make their beds ready for when surgery is done. I make them like I would a real bed, a soft thick blanket for them to lay on. I put a sheet, a blanket and another soft blanket to cover them. I also fold a towel to make a little pillow.  I roll back the top covers so they can be placed in their little spot and then covered up, all snug as a bug in a rug.

I feel privileged to work in a caring environment.  An environment, where I feel I make a difference every day.  To see a sick patient come in, and to see our team at work, their compassion, empathy and passion is a true gem to behold.  To see that patient go home, feeling so much better, and this is all in a day’s work.  Working with a great team is key, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle, all the pieces fit, and we at Brock Street Animal Hospital fit very well.

The Ginger Cat

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The Ginger Cat didn’t have a name, so I referred to him by the colour description on his cage card. There was one other adult cat at the Humane Society that summer. His name was Sam. He was a brown tabby with emerald eyes. I cleaned and fed the shelter cats every day. Whenever someone came in looking to adopt one, I would show them around. Most people wanted a kitten.
I would tell prospective owners,
“He is quiet and gentle and very careful about covering up his business. You never know how a kitten will turn out, but I can tell you these adult cats are great.”

Then one day – success! Someone adopted Sam. But in the weeks that followed, many kittens went to loving homes while The Ginger Cat remained. He was never really interested in food, although he ate well enough. He would walk the length of his kennel, turn and walk back, his motor running, his eyes locked on mine. His routine was always the same and all he wanted was my attention. It was more than half way through the summer, when the shelter manager Pat, took me aside during my lunch break.
“We cannot keep him much longer. It’s our policy – it isn’t humane to keep a cat locked up in a cage for months. I’m sorry, but he’ll have to be put down if we don’t find a home in the next 2 weeks.” she said.

That night at our kitchen table, I told my mom about my day.
“Do you think we could bring him home?” I said.
“Yes. But Dad’s got to say yes too.” she said.

The next day, my dad arrived at the shelter just before closing. I showed him around and then we headed down to the cat room. My dad stood there in his dress shirt and tie, The Ginger Cat like a baby in his arms. He couldn’t look away.
“OK.” he said.

My mom named him Beethoven. He loved to lay on his back and roll from side to side, begging for someone to rub his belly. At the end of the summer, I went off to university and Beethoven stayed behind. He spent the next fifteen years with my parents. Whenever I came home for a visit, he loved to just sit and look me. I swear he was the most grateful creature I’ve ever met. And for all the times I heard a ‘no’ from my parents, I am forever grateful that they said yes to The Ginger Cat.

Saying goodbye!

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Saying goodbye!

Saying goodbye is never easy, and I and my colleagues have all experienced this emotional ride.  We know the pain and how hard it is to say goodbye to our best friends, our family member we call our pets.

My heart always breaks when we have a euthanasia, as I know the pain the family will feel and go through.  The pet is ready to leave, whether it’s an ongoing illness, or an old frail body that cannot get around without feeling pain.  We are the emotional ones, the ones that will feel the loss for months and even years to come.

I know it’s been over a year since I lost one of my babies, yes I say babies, as that’s how I feel about my dogs.  Miss Twinny was my shadow, my Velcro dog, my sweet precious baby.  She had come into my life 6 years previously, a rescue from a terrible situation.  She and her partner Fluff had been rescued from a shelter in South Korea. They came to me not knowing how to live in a home, not knowing how to do stairs, or use the backyard.  It was a battle, but so worth it, they had come such a long way to find love, and they found it at my house.

Miss Twinny used to gaze at me from across the room, I would often look up to her soft round eyes gazing at me.  She would follow me everywhere, and I used to joke she would follow me to the end of the earth to just be near me.

Miss Twinny got very ill, very quickly and with the help of bloodwork, we were able to determine that she needed an ultrasound, and then a visit to a specialist.  Miss Twinny had an adrenal mass, and there was a chance if she had surgery that they could remove the mass.  She was booked for her surgery on a Friday morning, I said my goodbyes as I looked at her frightened little face in the hospital in Toronto. She was worried, as she was unsure of her surroundings.  I trusted the staff and Doctors there and knew she was in good hands.

Miss Twinny unfortunately went into respiratory distress the morning of her surgery, I got the call and was able to make it in time for her to crawl into my arms. I was told there was nothing that could be done and that I should say my goodbyes.  That goodbye was so hard, but she did manage to crawl into my arms and look at me for the very last time with her soft round eyes as I said my goodbye.

To Be A Dog

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So far, I have shared my life with 6 dogs and met thousands over my career. Still, it isn’t enough. I was born loving dogs. From candles on a birthday cake, to pennies thrown into the fountain at the local mall, every wish I made was for a dog. I just wanted a dog. I just needed a dog.

A dog will sit by your bed when you cry and nestle behind your knees when you are cold or lonely. A dog will demand that you play. A dog does not care about your clothes, your hairstyle or your accomplishments. A dog only cares about being – with you. They teach us how easy love can be.

A few years ago I wrote this poem because sometimes … I just wish I were a dog.

To Be A Dog

Wouldn’t it be nice
if someone gently stroked my hair,
a kind and loving touch
to soothe away despair.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if someone looked me in the eye,
spoke the words, I love you
no hesitation in their sigh.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if words had no meaning;
stupid, bad, wrong, should’ve,
it would take away their sting.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I were my friend instead of foe,
no longer in the ring
calling the action blow by blow.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I could plop myself in bed,
fall asleep inside warm blankets
without a worry in my head.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I could freely give a kiss,
to a heart that would accept it
awash in honest bliss.

Wouldn’t it be nice
to be free of mind’s thick bog.
It all boils down to this;
I just wish I were a dog

The grey muzzles!

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The grey muzzles!

I for one love the oldies, the grey muzzled sweeties that frequent our veterinary hospital.

As we get older, and we all do, we take the steps to help maintain our health for as long as possible. Whether that is through regular fitness activities, and a proper diet that keeps us healthy and fit. However, people are not the only ones who have to make certain changes and adjustments as they grow older. Our pets too require the types of needs and attention that many humans go through, such as maintaining a healthy diet, following a regular exercise routine and keeping up with annual veterinary exams.

In fact, due to improvements made in pet nutrition and supplements, along with the development of many medications which fight against common pet diseases, the life expectancy of household pets has doubled in the past fifty years.  Understanding the common symptoms and signs that come with the pet aging process cannot only help you to take steps towards improving your pet’s quality of life,  it can also prepare you for what is ahead in the senior years.

Yearly exams are so important, especially as our sweet seniors age.  This is when any concerns or health issues can be caught early.  We at Brock Street Animal Hospital love helping our Oldies but Goldies as we call them.

I know myself, that jumping out of bed isn’t as easy as it was 10 years ago, sometimes I have to roll…hey, that’s another story to tell.

Oh, and November is Adopt a Senior month, so if you’re thinking of adding a new member, consider a sweet grey muzzle.


It’s all about the smile !

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I decided last Friday to smile all day, which included smiling when I was on the phone and greeting clients and patients coming in.

Now, to be honest being Friday was an incentive to smile more, but I actually felt I made a difference that day.  As a receptionist in a busy Veterinary Hospital   we are the first to interact with our clients.   The one’s that set the mood, the feel of our hospital.  I am always polite and cheerful, but last Friday I was rocking it.  I felt not only good about myself, but good about everyone around me, it’s contagious.

I had a spring in my step, if I could have I would have danced to the music playing on the radio, and maybe I will tomorrow.  I also thought of the sad people, the angry people and felt sorry for them, I thought to myself, I hope they can smile soon and feel better.

I had also spent a good part of my day researching blogging, and I know that added more excitement to my day.  I am so looking forward to getting this set up, and myself and Hayley for sure will be writing our hearts out.

Our hospital can be an emotional roller coaster at times, and I am going to make an extra effort to stay upbeat and smile.  I know it will help me, and I hope it will help my colleagues and our clients.  Being sincere is important, and I can truly say that I am.  When I smile at you or laugh with you, I mean it!

This world is sad enough, let’s all make it better by smiling, it will change how you look at things.

I am smiling now, as I just wrote my first blog, and I do believe I rocked it!