Prince Charming

 I can’t remember anything that happened on May 3rd of 1999.  There are also a vast number of days in 2005 that I have forgotten.  Now that I think about it, all of 1973 and 1993 are lost to retrievable memory.  2008 is foggy as well, other than the Mariners were terrible, which is not that exact of a memory.  Life seems to only allow that one lives life or writes it down.  The time for both is elusive.  Last Thursday was another busy day in practice.  We did good work but I’m already fuzzy on the specifics.  I have practiced for roughly 5000 days and I constantly wish I could record and recall more from them.  I don’t believe that they are gone and consider today their summation.  But, when memories fade I perceive my window to be James Herriot closing.  I have had the pleasure of working on so many remarkable creatures.  I don’t want to forget when Pooh, Bala, Tessa, Bear, or Barney came into my exam room.  I need to believe that nothing good ever dies and when I write about my patients I feel like they live on.

       I’ve said before that I don’t like to admit that I have favorites but I clearly do.  I have treated and cared for many wonderful cats but my favorite kitty patient was a cat named “Prince Charming”.   Perhaps I was swayed by his name, but “PC”, as I called him, was regal.  He was a face rubbing extrovert who didn’t mind coming to the vet.  The face rubbing (also called bunting) cats that interact with the world by tilting their heads and then running into their environment with their face and full body force are the best.  Cat like this are so social that even when fearful and scared they can’t help themselves from rubbing their head and face on us.  With his outgoing personality, PC made friends wherever he went and whenever he came to the clinic.  

I met him within just a short time of working at Lien.  He started at Lien before I did.  His mom used to walk down to the clinic when she was in high school and see Dr. Lien.  She remembers when Dr. King was the new guy in 1968 and she was there, obviously, when Larry hired me in 1990.  Prince Charming quickly became my favorite patient over relatively routine care and I got to know him well treating him throughout his life.  His sister cat “Katrina” was sick when I first met the family and I remember seeing the two of them together many times.  PC was a tolerant and trusting patient.  He didn’t like us doing things like catheters and other things we do but he didn’t fight us.  And, he didn’t blame us.  I know I can’t back up that last statement but you always felt he forgave your interventions.  He seemed to roll with it and move on.  There was always another face rub to say, “we’re cool”.   

Later in his life PC developed lymphoma in one of his eyes.  He had to have that eye removed and started chemotherapy.  Lymphoma is always considered systemic and not just in one place.  He only tolerated a brief time on chemotherapy.  His mom and I decided his reaction to the chemotherapy was too intense and we didn’t push further treatment.  He did fantastic though.  The short time on medication put his cancer into remission.  His type of cancer typically will relapse in 7-9 months; faster relapse would be expected with incomplete treatment.  PC stayed in remission for over two years.  When it came back, it recurred in his other eye and there was little that would help him further.  His illness after initial chemotherapy was brief and transient and he felt great and was very much himself for the duration of his remission.

After PC died, his mom gave me some pictures of him that I recently ran across.  Her husband is now gone too and many of the pictures were with Glen.  I enjoyed the two of them so much.  I promised PC’s mom years ago that I would write someday about him.  This is a short tribute. 

All these years have passed and he’s still my favorite.

Timothy R Kraabel, DVM, DABVP (Canine/Feline Practice) - Outreach Chairman, American Board of Veterinary Practitioners

Spay and Neuter Project in Costa Rica

Welcome to my first blog post!  I have intended to start a blog for some time.  I love to write and there is so much medicine to discuss and many stories to tell in veterinary medicine.

Dr. Fritzler and I love to travel.  We have long thought we could combine travel with providing veterinary care in under-served areas of the world.  Such an opportunity presented itself this spring and our family went to Costa Rica with Critter Care International on a spay and neuter project.  Our friends and colleagues, Dr. Stan Diment and Susan Savage from Orlando, Florida, have been traveling to Arenal, Costa Rica with this group since 2011.  They asked us to join them on this trip and it was a worthy journey. 

Several days of the trip were spent at a local Arenal home providing low cost spays and neuters.  The home had an outdoor area made up into a surgery ward and there were many willing volunteers and lots of animals.  We felt a bit like rock stars pulling up in our van full of the veterinary health care team.  Dr. Diment, Dr. Mario (a local veterinarian), Dr. Fritzler and myself performed the spays and neuters.  Our kids, Geoffrey, Aubrey and Nicholas, were along as assistants along with Keri, a volunteer who came with Dr. Diment and Susan.  We treated a few sick animals as well and repaired a wound on a dog that showed up.  A bunny also came in for me that needed extensive dental work.  Susan Savage is a licensed technician and handled all the anesthesia.  The group of volunteers handled everything else including admissions and manning the recovery ward in the homeowner’s bedroom.  It was certainly different than what we are used to in the United States but we provided good care and helped a lot of animals.  Dr. Diment and Susan have seen the pet overpopulation in the town of Arenal drop significantly over the years they have been visiting.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country.  We stayed in a small bed and breakfast with an innkeeper from New York named John.  He had 3 wonderful great Danes and a lovely house with a view of Lake Arenal.  We took a few days off and went on a river cruise near the Nicaraguan border.  We saw Caiman and monkeys and tons of birds and had a relaxing day on the river.  We also spent a day zip lining, which was very cool, but not relaxing.  We loved the local cuisine and the people were welcoming and gracious.  The people of Arenal in particular were thankful for our help.  A husband and wife team, Balo and Emily, were our drivers and we loved and bonded with them immediately.  We spent the last two days in the town of La Fortuna before flying home.

The experience was life changing.  It was difficult to do surgery outside of our comfort zone, but we adjusted to the conditions and everyone did well.  Our kids, at least two of whom want to be veterinarians, got exposure to lots of surgery.  We all saw another unique and beautiful part of the world while feeling like the place was a bit better off for our visit.