Vet, Out Of Uniform

I ran into my former veterinarian on the Upper West Side who really popped a file for me.

Dr. J. retired three years ago, but for years looked after all the neighborhood animals, including mine…Missy the cat, being the last.

He has to be close to 80 by now, but there he was jogging in shorts with that ubiquitous white beard of his that always made him look like a mad scientist.

He made me think of Inky, a cat I had a good 30 years ago. She was given to me by a woman I knew in Connecticut who had one too many. I, at the time, had Margie who was the Dillinger of felines.

Poor Inky who withstood so much abuse from Marge until she decided, okay, you can stay.

But that’s what I remember best about Inks, she had the sweetest disposition of any cat I’ve ever had before or since.

One day, after having her for six or so years, she stopped eating, the sure sign something is very wrong with an animal. Off we went to see Dr. J. who said, she was very dehydrated and needed fluids. Now I’m very squeamish, even now, when it comes to needles, so every morning we would go and Dr. J would irrigate her, for lack of a better term.

Then the tests came back.

Inky had cancer, and he was a vet who never recommended chemo for an animal unless the owner insisted. I naturally would never put a beloved pet through that, but my sadness was vast.

How often had Inky sat with me as I wept over my latest heartbreak. She’d nestle next to me, putting her black paw on my hand as if to say, there there, it will be okay.

Losing her was going to be hard.

I decided to take her home until it was clear she was in discomfort which happened fairly fast. Right after making the appointment to put her down, the hardest thing any pet lover has to do, she rallied..eating, playing. Margie had already separated from her, apparently something cats do when they know a peer is about to depart. Nature is very strange sometimes, but then again, maybe it’s her way of getting through a loss.

Elated at the new Inky, I called Dr. J. who said, “Let me have a look at her, bring her in.”

This is when he was at his greatest. He said, “Whatever this is, is temporary, and I agree it’s wonderful to see her like her old self. But let me ask you this. If it were you terminally ill knowing any minute life would be one unbearable pain, wouldn’t you like to go out the day you felt your best Susannah?”

I sat on the floor and sobbed. I knew he was right as I held her in my arms as she purred and purred, her bones so evident against me.

It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make, but I agreed.

He taught me such a lesson in humanity that day in his skylit office with the pictures of puppies and kittens on the wall.

When I saw him jogging by, we smiled and waved to one another.

Remembering Inks, I cried all the way home.   get-attachment-2 I always love how the New York Times, in an obit, prints a photo when you were young, spry and happy.


About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Thanks.
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23 Responses to Vet, Out Of Uniform

  1. micklively says:

    It is always traumatic to lose a friend, particularly so when that friend offers such unconditional love and faithfulness. But, even though it is a painful decision to make, the vet’s needle is one huge advantage that pets have over us. You would not be permitted to despatch me, even if I was begging you to do so.


    • That goes for me too Mick. It’s fast and efficient, this I know but sad as hell. That little spirit just shoots right out of that body. It never ceases to amaze me.


      • micklively says:

        Life is so fragile. We’re all sitting on a lump of rock, flying through space at 600,000 mph (depending upon your frame of reference). Everything and everybody hangs by a thread. Even time is an accident, reality isn’t real, and life (as we know it Jim) teeters on a knife edge.


      • Oh my…this should be printed someplace more important than here 🙂


  2. Jeanette Hamilton says:

    Inky’s sweet personality just shines in that photo. I’m sorry you lost her but happy for the good times you had together.


  3. katecrimmins says:

    So beautiful and so sweet. I have one experience with my old vet who has since retired. My old cat was in renal failure. She was sluggish, exhausted and losing weight. My vet kept her for a few days infusing her with steroids and whatever else to make her rally. I picked her up. She was her old self….for about 2 weeks. I took her back in. He said he could do it again if I want. I asked if there wasn’t something to make her recover. He say, “We are just buying you time to get accustomed to the idea. This isn’t about her, it’s about you. She is not going to make it.” I took her home and cried and cried. I got up the courage to do that final trip. Her quality of life wasn’t there anymore and finally, it wasn’t about me anymore. So sad for your loss and we never forget!


    • It’s the downside of loving an animal, and the only alternative is to go first and that’s a deal breaker for them and for you. Your tale is equally as sad but you did right and how wonderful he said, it was for you keeping her going…it was sobering and allowed you to do the right things for your kitty cat…and look…now you have three more.


      • katecrimmins says:

        Four more! (and how did that happen?) Sounds like you had a great vet too!


      • Yeah…it was nice to see him…his place was named The Animal Mercy Hospital if that’s any indication of the kind of vet he was. And they just tore the building down…I remember thinking…how many cats have I said goodbye to right there that will be no more. New York…it just reinvents itself.


  4. Arthur Seder says:

    Thanks Susannah. I have no affinity for dogs, but I’m a cat lover and always feel life’s a little better for having one in it. I had to put down my bff Virgil last summer, as you know, and the sadness was tempered by the understanding that this was best for him and what I hope would be done for me in equivalent circumstances. (In truth, the lack of any means in our society of releasing those who would like to be released – humans, that is – shows a breathtaking lack of compassion.) But so now I have my kid’s cat Oliver on permanent loan. He’s the toast of the dock!


    • Oliver, that’s great Arthur…I like knowing you have another 4 legged pal. Yes, releasing every human being from pain and suffering would be ideal, but I’m afraid this won’t happen in our lifetime. Maybe the next 🙂


  5. Elle Knowles says:

    Oh! So sorry you had to go through all that. Inky was putting up a good front for you! I guess I’ve been lucky because I have never had to go through an ordeal like that. Haven’t been attached to many pets and now we have a neurotic inherited cat and a stray. H is really attached so I don’t want to be around if it ever happens. I’m not good at medical issues for people or animals. ;(


  6. Patricia says:

    It is so sad to have to let out catkids go. In a year I had to send Henry then Dolly on their way. I cried and cried. But it was also a certain comfort to hold them while they slipped away.


  7. skinnyuz2b says:

    Oh, Susannah. This brought tears to my eyes, for your loss of Inky and remembrance of my Siamese/mix Monkey. Long live Dr. J and others like him.


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