A while ago, I read a blog post by Matthew Dicks about having a separate section of the vet’s office for grieving pet owners.
At the time, I found myself nodding in mild agreement. I’ve received bad news at the vet’s office before and have also had to have my pet euthanized. In both circumstances, I would have greatly appreciated a little privacy.
But after my experience today, I think that Matthew Dicks is a freaking genius and his suggestion should be a national law.
I was at the vet’s with my sixteen year old cat. He has myriad health problems, including hyperthyroidism and a benign (we think) growth in his abdomen about the size of a small apple.
But being an old cat, we have opted to just keep him happy and comfortable for as long as possible instead of making him suffer through surgery or being injected with radioactive material.
(That really is treatment for hyperthyroidism. For people as well as cats, I’m told. They make you radioactive and no one can touch you for a whole week. It’s kind of crazy.)
So we were visiting the vet just to check his weight and get a blood test.
When we walked in the only receptionist was on the phone, so we waited to check in.
A few minutes later, one of the exam room doors opened and a young couple came out. They did not have an animal with them. The woman was sobbing and the man was sniffling. It was obvious that they had just lost a pet.
I tried to give them some privacy, but we were standing together at the same stupid counter. The only thing I could do was avert my eyes.
My cat is half Siamese and he definitely got the talkative gene from his Siamese ancestors. He likes to meow, especially when he is in his travel case.
And it’s not a cute little kitten meow. It’s a big, loud yowl. I call it a meyowl. He sounds like he is being tortured. I’m convinced that he only does it to make me feel guilty, but I can’t prove that.
I don’t know if the young couple lost a dog or a cat, but I don’t think it helped them to have to listen to my cat caterwauling in his crate. If their cat had died, the noise would have been an awful reminder that their cat was gone while others still lived on. And if their dog had died, it would have just been a further annoyance on a horrible day.
My vet was wise enough to design the waiting room into small sections of benches back to back, so pets can be separated visually. After waiting with the crying couple for a minute or two, I just took my cat over to a bench and sat down. I figured the receptionist saw me and knew me, so I’d just get out of the way.
My cat kept meyowling, but at least the poor couple had a little privacy.
The receptionist finally hung up. She repeatedly told the couple that she was sorry for their loss and then said, “That will be $169.”
It’s crappy to have to pay to have your beloved pet killed.
I know being a vet is a business and they have to make money, but I would pay an extra $5 or $10 each visit if they wouldn’t charge me to have my pet euthanized when the time came. It’s just hard to pay money for that “service.”
And they really should have you pre-pay. My old vet did that and, while it didn’t make the situation any easier, it was better to be able to just leave and sob in the car rather than while standing at the counter in a waiting room full of people.
If you know me or have read a few of my blog posts, you’ll know that I’m incredibly oversensitive about pets dying. I stop watching movies if I think a pet is going to get killed. I avoid books about pets because they always die in the end. I get teary just thinking that my cats may die someday.
I know pets die, it just gets to me.
So by the time the couple had paid and left, I was crying too. I tried to distract myself from their sorrow. I got out my phone and checked Twitter. It didn’t work.
Then I texted my mother and told her what was happening. Her response was “oh” then “do you want me to come down?” She knows me so well.
Tears were still streaming down my face when I went back over to the counter to check in. The receptionist asked if I was all right. I told her that I was crying for that couple, even though I didn’t know them or the situation. Then she teared up too and had to go find us tissues.
It was a mess.
It wasn’t until later when my cat and I were both back home safe and neither of us were crying that I thought of Matthew Dicks’ blog post. I found and re-read it just now and this time I had to keep from shouting “Yes!” to the idea.
I’m lucky that I’ve never lost a loved one in a hospital, but I’d bet they don’t make you stand there in the middle of the lobby paying the bill when Grandma just died of a heart attack. (Do they?)
So why are people forced to do this for with their furry family members?
According to the Humane Society, thirty nine percent of U.S. homes have at least one dog and thirty three percent have at least one cat (I don’t know how those percentage overlap, though.) If we all came together, I bet we could force vets to be a little more considerate of grieving pet owners and offer a private room for bill paying and even a private exit.
Pet owners unite!