Pet cemetery - Part II
a year ago
A fashion stylist in Mount Lavinia has a kitten who was recently unwell. “Feisty” had jumped off a balcony a few days prior – and while cats are able to land from great heights onto their feet unharmed, the owner had assumed she may have been injured. One vet had told her the kitten needed to be taken off carbs and immediately be put on a strict raw meat only diet – something I’ve never heard of in my entire life as a pet owner! She’d sought a second consultation where, after a high consultation fee, the vet had declared Feisty was actually pregnant and that scans and tests were required. Prudently she got a third consultation from a vet in Battaramulla who had diagnosed it as early stages of cat flu. Look at how vastly different the diagnoses were? She could have been mistreated and come to great harm had the proper diagnosis not been made by a vet who actually cared for animals and wasn’t trying to hoodwink the concerned lady. A finance analyst’s dog was recently having as many as 12 seizures and the consulted vet had instructed that administering a bunch of painkillers would save her. The dog had nearly passed away. This gent had rushed his dog at 1 a.m. to a pet clinic that had a competent and caring vet who had treated and saved her life. An eight-month-old lion German shepherd had suffered with a sudden limp a few weeks ago. The pet parent had consulted a leading clinic where the responding vet had advised her to give the fella panadol! Fortunately, the dog had been rushed to a vet in Kotte who had treated him and requested never to administer panadol. Nearly a year ago during a previous lockdown, one of my dearest furry kids named “Hercules” (who was a four-year-old champ, completely humanised, and used to travel with me by tuks, had no major health issues) fell badly ill. He stopped eating and drinking and I worried it was an extreme case of cat flu. I was advised by a friend to take the cat to a renowned clinic (as my vets were unavailable at the time), where he was diagnosed with a series of health issues. They insisted on running a myriad of tests and keeping him overnight. I spent the entire time there with him and much to my chagrin, finally returned to my abode. I was so worried I rang the clinic over six times in the time span of a few hours to check on him, where the receptionist and attending medical officer kept saying he is fine. They asked me to bring some chicken liver and stock the next day. On the way to the clinic the next morning, I called to check on him and after a long wait, someone on the other end said Hercules had passed away that morning and they assumed someone had informed me already. Heartbroken, I went to the clinic, and while they were busy billing me, I had to force my way to a section of the facility where his corpse was inside a cage in a solitary room. My mate who accompanied me and I wept, wrapped him in a cloth, and placed him in the vehicle – without so much as an offer of help or any courtesy extended by the staff. Of course, they billed me close to Rs.20,000 for the overnight stay and the numerous tests. Two vets asked me if I would like to go to their office to talk and discuss what happened. I replied that no discussion will bring him to life. They confided that they had no idea what happened. That they are shocked. I entrusted my Hercules’ life to these entrepreneurs who repaid my trust by sending him away – dead in a box. Do I have your attention yet, dear readers? I certainly hope so. In the last four years, I have buried over 20 pets, many of whom were rescues that were too ill to be saved. I have adopted and rescued and found homes for as many. Some were administered generic treatment by a certain mobile vet service of the standard saline and three injections to no benefit. Some I lost due to very serious misdiagnoses and surgical hiccups. I lost a few dogs, all precious to me, one notoriously known by those in my circles as the incorrigible, fierce, and incomprehensibly loyal “Alyssa”, also named “Michi”. She passed away a month or so after being neutered. A neutering complication resulted in her suffering and passing away in my arms. For pet owners and parents, they are the equivalent of our children. Our pets love us faithfully in a way no human possibly can; their devotion and loyalty to us unequalled. Even in cases where they are terribly independent and proud, even then the connection we share with them and they with us is something that cannot be easily put to words. I could go on about the benefits and advantages of having a pet…but that would defeat the purpose of my article. Let me reiterate, as I did in the first part of this piece last week, that not all vets in Sri Lanka are contemptible. There are a few vets out there who are thorough, extremely professional, competent, trustworthy, reliable, and who sincerely care about saving the life of a pet over minting financial benefits. Let’s be real here, vets and their facilities need to make money in order to sustain themselves. To continue to treat their patients with the required medication, equipment, and means. And as humans, we are prone to err. Mistakes and mishaps do happen, and sometimes like us humans fall into unexpected circumstances of misdiagnoses and incorrect assessments by medical professionals, that can transpire in the world of pets as well. I am the first to accept and admit that when you are overwhelmed with a plethora of patients back to back, and you are stressed out, overworked, and understaffed, there are complications that are apt to occur. Be that as it may, that is no excuse as professionals to be tardy, lackadaisical, cruel, or insensitive. Whatever our vocations, we need to take responsibility and accept accountability for our judgments, evaluations, words, and deeds in life. Yes, of course there are moments of inevitability where loss and death cannot be prevented; when it’s time for us to go, it’s time for us to go. However, any living being by right of virtue and existence has a right to be given appropriate attention and care and offered a righteous fighting chance to survive at the competent hands of a professional. In many cases in Sri Lanka, there is hardly an iota of empathy or remorse, as it has become a clinical and almost mechanical process of going through the motions. The horror stories here in our country of how pets are mistreated and misdiagnosed are legion. The reason more animal welfare organisations and animal rescue parties don’t voice their dissatisfaction and frustrations are because they are often obligated to silence, being in debt to some of these vets and clinics, and the services utilised. They know the bitter truth that there are very few places that would treat strays and rescues on credit. They also know that it is a beggars can’t be choosers scenario in our nation, and they cannot afford to burn bridges. The thing is, some of these places exploit their patrons knowing that there is very little anyone can or will do. Some animal hospitals are just conceived to satiate investors and focus on profitability. Did you know the veterinary market in the US alone is a whopping $ 19 billion market and findings depicted in www.globenewswire.com indicate that in 2020, the global pet industry was valued at $ 223.54 billion? Consider the money made from vet care along with the estimated worth of pet food and treats, product sales, supplies, and OTC medications? The pet industry is a lucrative market in Sri Lanka as well. Do not assume otherwise. And while there are clinics struggling to make ends meet here in Sri Lanka, and some that do well that are certainly content to focus on ethical practices over feigning care and exploiting customers, we need to analyse the rise in cases where pets continue to become the victims of malpractice and negligence. Many pet owners are too distraught, damaged, and in grief after a loss to take up action or to voice their concerns after a pet passes away. Imagine the people who are not confrontational, are passive, and reluctant victims of an industry sworn to protect, prevent, and save lives that is actually a smoke and mirrors veil to facilitate a service driven by its own inherent laws of supply and demand, optimising opportunity, and maximising profitability? I for one salute and tip my gratitude, respect, and admiration to the few of you out there who are sincere, compassionate, amazing at what you do, and possess integrity as you do skill sets. Much respect to the vets, animal rescue, and welfare organisations and people doing their part each day. But to those of you who manipulate, exploit, and murder our pets…these hands have hardened callouses from digging many graves, an even greater hardened heart that can only bend but break no more. A mind filled with memories of the many souls that could have been saved, had you just cared a little bit more and given your undivided attention. I am sure I am not the only one, and I know my sentiments are shared by many out there. Suresh de Silva is the frontman and lyricist of Stigmata, a creative consultant and brand strategist by profession, a self-published author and poet, thespian, animal rescuer, podcaster, and fitness enthusiast. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of this publication.