By Christie Long
Most of my clients love their pets, but Bob’s bond with one of his pets in particular was extraordinary.
Shortly after I finished veterinary school and started my first job, I met them both. Biscuit was suffering from hyperthyroidism. Untreated, it leads to heart disease, weight loss and severe gastrointestinal signs, all of which Biscuit had.
Together, Bob and I worked through these problems, and eventually restored Biscuit to better health. Despite my lack of experience, Bob never question my judgment or recommendations. Somehow, his unwavering confidence in me helped me to believe in myself at a time when I certainly was less than sure that I knew exactly what to do.
I saw Bob and Biscuit a lot during the next five years. Biscuit needed dental work, his heart never fully recovered from the hyperthyroidism and his kidneys eventually started to fail. He also had severe arthritis in his hips.
And toward the end of his life, I saw both of them for acupuncture sessions a few times a month. I have never seen a cat enjoy acupuncture the way Biscuit did. Unfailingly, when I came into the exam room Biscuit was in the “sphinx” position, ready to get his needles. He sat for the treatments without any restraint, but always with Bob by his side, talking softly to him and feeding him his favorite snacks.
Despite our best efforts, late last year Biscuit’s kidney disease progressed to the point that he was severely anemic, vomiting frequently and eating little. When it became clear there was no more we could do for Biscuit, I told Bob I thought it was time to let him go. He quietly nodded in agreement, and together we helped Biscuit cross over peacefully.
A few weeks ago, Bob’s name jumped out at me from the obituary column in the paper. The succinct paragraph listed no next-of-kin, and named only adoptive parents
that had preceded him in death. In my shock and sadness, my mind eventually turned to Bob’s two remaining cats and what had become of them.
I drove to Bob’s house that day and learned through talking with his neighbors he had taken his own life, and the cats had been taken by Animal Control. Because no one could be found to take responsibility for them, after an initial waiting period without hope of adoption, the cats were euthanized. I learned of this more than 10 days too late.
Although I did not know Bob well enough to suspect he would end his own life, I know had he been thinking clearly, he would have made a plan for his cats. If there is some good to come of this, perhaps it will be that by telling the story of Bob and Biscuit, some of you will be motivated to make a plan for your pets in case of a tragedy. Refer to the American Bar Association’s publication for help getting started.
This column is dedicated to the memory of our dear friend and client Bob Mustain, and to his beloved cats Boris, Little Mel, Chernist, and of course and always, Biscuit.
Christie Long is a veterinarian at the VCA Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, CO. Long left her job in software sales in 2000 to travel for 13 months. Along the way, she was touched by the plight of the animals she saw and somewhere in the Nepalese Himalayas she vowed to return to school to become a veterinarian. While she often finds end-of-life situations heart-wrenching, she considers herself blessed to be called upon as a trusted advisor to families during difficult times. Dr. Long’s family includes her husband and travel partner, Wiley, their 5-year-old son, Wiley IV, their dogs Pancake and Gizmo and cats Sneaky and Sidh.