by Dr. Jody Kaufman
I met Buddy in the fall of 1997. He was brought into the clinic on an emergency basis on a Sunday morning. His owner said that he had a large abscess on his head and that he was worried because the cat was not up to date on his Rabies vaccination. Upon arrival, his owner stated that they had decided to put him to sleep. Not only was he overdue on vaccinations, but he didn't get along with other cats.
I took Buddy into the exam room and he did indeed have a large abscess. His head was twice the normal size. Despite that, he was purring and rubbing my hand with his face. He was so sweet even though he had to be in pain. The moment stretched out as I considered the possibilities. I was so relieved that his owner consented to my suggestion that he relinquish the cat, allowing me to fix him up and find him a home.
Thus Buddy came to live with us at the hospital. I couldn't place him immediately because of the required quarantine for an unvaccinated cat with a bite wound of unknown origin. As we became better acquainted, it turned out that he had many allergies. He also urinated inappropriately at times. It would have been difficult to place him. Besides, he and our original hospital cat, Willie, had become great friends. Buddy had the run of the clinic and favorites among the staff. He loved to sit on my knee when I was making telephone calls and was inventive about making mischief.
Buddy became the ultimate ambassador over the years. He loved to come up to the reception area to greet people, claiming receptive laps and giving hugs.
He was very healthy for years with the exception of his allergies, which were mostly controlled with special diets. However, he'd occasionally raid the trash or scavenge someone's sandwich and then rip his fur out. He started having some problems as he aged. Kidney problems are common in many geriatric cats, and Buddy was no exception. It was well controlled for a while with various medical manipulations. However, an inflammation of his pancreas appeared in the last year that was proved difficult to treat. Despite all of our palliative efforts, he continued to lose weight. There were times when he felt fine and others when he clearly didn't feel well.
It's a dilemma that we all face with the animals we love, for we never want them to suffer. I feel grateful that our profession allows us to help our patients on their journey when life becomes too difficult. Still, it's sometimes hard to know exactly when to say goodbye. It became clear to us last week that Buddy was having fewer and fewer good days. Not acting would have left us with a legacy of guilt.
Buddy has been a part of our little community for the last fifteen years. His wonderful spirit will remain.