“Lucky” the Wonder-Cat

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

In the summer of 2007, our front office staff received several calls from Beverly Shelton, a retired school guidance counselor, highly respected member of the community, and known cat-lover.  She was concerned about two neighborhood cats that she felt were neglected, and wanted to know how to approach the situation.  These cats were living on a neighbor’s front porch, and were not receiving daily care.  Beverly, a kind soul, was trying to divine the proper way to handle things.  Eventually she was able to adopt one of the cats:  a young tuxedo short haired cat that she brought into her home and named “Lucky”.

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Lucky was an only cat.  Beverly lived alone, and when she took him in it was with love and open arms.  She fully took on the responsibility of having a new family member.  Consequently, he soon became a fixture in our clinic.

We spent the next few months getting Lucky caught up on vaccinations and all of the other necessary endeavors for a new kitty.  Even after the initial visits were over, the couple continued to visit with regularity.  It was not uncommon to see him on a monthly basis, and we looked forward to seeing him on the morning schedule.  With every visit, Lucky needed his nails trimmed, his teeth and anal sacs checked (a horrible but necessary trauma; he seemed to understand).  His weight was recorded in a notebook that Beverly kept, in order to keep a record of his health and (I always supposed) to keep him in mind of not over-eating.

Lucky was really a very healthy cat overall.  He occasionally had ‘funky stool’ that resolved with a teaspoon of yogurt every morning.  I think that Beverly and Lucky shared a yogurt every morning (strawberry or vanilla; Lucky did not care for exotic flavors).  She often told me that she enjoyed her breakfast routine with kitty.

We soon came to realize that Lucky was an incredibly generous cat.  Every visit included a box of Andes mints that Lucky had kindly brought along, in appreciation for our services.  He also celebrated all of the major holidays and thought of us with each one.  He was thoughtful by nature and would send a card 6 times a year: Christmas/New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Each card was hand-written and expressed his love for our staff and veterinarians and wished us blessings for the day.  At Christmas, Lucky insisted on providing a catered lunch for the staff.  No, he and Beverly did not wish to be there for the luncheon, he was just happy to know that we were going to enjoy it.

“To everyone at WCVS:  Lucky and I want to thank everyone for your help, services, friendship and love the past 3 years.  Much appreciated.  God loves you all and so do I.  Take care and be safe, Love, Lucky and Beverly Shelton.  XOXO.”

Always the XOXO at the end of a note.

This was the kind of person that Beverly was; always thinking of others and incredibly generous.  It was not uncommon for Lucky to show up with a heart-shaped cheese ball for us to enjoy, or a fresh box of cookies from the grocery.  When one of our receptionists moved away from town, Beverly sent her family care packages with cat toys and treats, just because she knew that she had cats at home.  She was known for doing ‘little things’ like this for others, and would brush off any thanks like it was unnecessary, and yet the joy in her face was always evident.

I do feel that Lucky was family to Beverly.  Her love for him was well-known; she famously walked him around town in a cat carriage.  She often talked about the little things that Lucky did each day that brought her joy.  One of my favorite moments at work of all time involved a visit with Beverly and Lucky in which she revealed her new tattoo – Lucky’s handsome black-and-white head – on her left forearm.  Picture this lovely, petite, fair-skinned woman in her late 60’s with bright white hair and this picture of her best furry friend and loving companion on her arm.  We were all so surprised!  It was beautifully done; it looked like a Polaroid picture.  She loved that tattoo.

Last summer, we had another surprise:  Lucky became ill quite suddenly, to the point that we referred him to the local University hospital for emergency care.  He had a serious heart condition that could not be cured, and he was suffering.  Beverly was forced to make one final loving decision for her dear Lucky.  He was euthanized that week at the referral hospital.

We were stunned and horribly saddened by the loss to such a kind, wonderful woman.  And, selfishly, it was difficult to get used to life without seeing Beverly and Lucky in the clinic.  Because Lucky was a frequent visitor, we had learned a lot about Beverly’s life and missed hearing her animated stories.  In addition to talk about Lucky’s adventures, she had often conversed about her twin sister, referred to as “Sissy”, that she was obviously very close to and loved very much.  Beverly did stop by once after he was gone, in the fall, to thank us for our care of her dear friend.  She looked frail then, and it was at that time that she told us that she had terminal lung cancer.  There were tears, and hugs, and promises for prayer, and then she was gone.

We met Sissy the other day; she stopped by the veterinary clinic to hand us a portrait of Lucky that a friend had painted for Beverly from a photograph.  I suppose that she had commissioned the work after Lucky’s passing.  I don’t know if she ever got to enjoy it; Beverly passed away in March this year of lung cancer, at the age of 71.  Sissy knew that Beverly wanted us to have it, and spent time visiting with all of us, telling us about how beautiful the memorial service was, how brave Beverly had been throughout her final months, and how she was buried in the end with Lucky’s ashes tucked under her tattooed arm.

Knowing Beverly Shelton and her beloved made us at WCVS Veedersburg incredibly Lucky.

May they rest in peace together.

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Top 10 House Poisons for Pets

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

The Animal Poison Control Center is located at the University of Illinois Veterinary Hospital in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois.  From this center, veterinary toxicologists field calls from both veterinarians in the field and pet owners alike regarding poison exposure in pets.

Last year alone (2013), the Animal Poison Control Center answered 180,000 calls about pets and poison exposure.  These are the top ten toxins that were reported (ranked in order of call volume):

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(the following content is courtesy of the ASPCA website:  http://www.aspca.org)

1. Prescription Human Medications

The APCC handled 24,673 cases regarding human prescription medications in 2013. The top three types of medications that animals were exposed to include: heart medications (blood pressure pills), antidepressants and pain medications (opioids and prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Many of these exposures were due to people dropping their medication when preparing to take it, and before they knew it, Fido had gobbled the pill off the floor.

2. Insecticides

Insecticides are used in the yard, home and on our animals. While 15.7% of all calls to the APCC are about insecticides, more than half of the calls involving cats pertain to felines exposed to insecticides. Always read the label before using any insecticide on your pet, in your home or in your yard.

3. Over-the-Counter Human Medications

Over-the-counter human products accounted for 14.7% of calls to APCC in 2013. This group contains acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen as well as herbal and nutraceutical products (fish oil, joint supplements). Many of these products are tasty to pets, and some can be life threatening if ingested.

4. Household Products

There were nearly 17,000 calls to the APCC about household products in 2013. Household toxins can range from fire logs to cleaning products. Some items can be corrosive, while other can cause obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract requiring surgical intervention.

5. People Food

Human foods are especially appealing to pets, especially dogs. Dogs can get themselves into serious trouble by ingesting onions/garlic, grapes/raisins and xylitol, a sugar substitute which can be life-threatening for animals.

6. Veterinary Products and Medications

Veterinary products slid down two spots this year. Both OTC and prescription veterinary products are included in this group. Flavored tablets make it easy to give your pet pain or joint medication, but it also makes it more likely for them to ingest the entire bottle if given the chance.

7. Chocolate

Chocolate is still the number one people food that pets ingest (we received an average of 26 calls a day last year). Too much chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate and seizures.

8. Rodenticides

When putting out baits to kill mice and rats, never underestimate the resourcefulness of your pet. Approximately 5.5% of calls to the APCC in 2013 were related to baits. Depending on the type of rodenticide, ingestion can cause internal bleeding, kidney failure or seizures.

9. Plants

More than 9,000 cases in 2013 were pet parents calling about their animals eating plants. This is one category that cats lead dogs in the number of exposures. Lilies can cause kidney failure and death in cats. Please see our list of toxic/non-toxic plants for more information.

10. Lawn and Garden Products

Fertilizers, which can be made of dried blood, poultry manure and bone meal, are very attractive to pets, so it is not surprising that we get many calls (over 5,000 in 2013) on lawn and garden items.

If you have any reason to suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435.

A Veterinarian’s Calling

Best bumper sticker I ever got my hands on:

“My Veterinarian/The Other Family Doctor”

Cool, right?? I can’t even remember where I picked it up along the way. I just love the idea behind it. I’ve never put it on a vehicle; I don’t want to ruin it.

I have actually thought about framing it.

What a beautifully simple concept!! And a sense of pride for all of us in this profession. A reminder that we as veterinarians are first and foremost here to learn and to apply that knowledge to heal. But add to that the ripple effect that happens every time we are called to serve that makes a real difference in the lives of those around us.

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Let me give you a few examples of this:

The typical puppy visit that involves a lot of talk about how to train a baby to become a pet that is a fun, loving, integral member of the family. A discussion on how to keep Rover healthy so that he lives a long and happy life, and what needs to be done to prevent Rover from bringing disease home to the children. Education about spay/neuter, breed issues and proper nutrition.  Bottom line:  Any new information that we can share at the beginning of a pet’s life can dramatically change the outcome of a family’s experience with that loved one.

Another example:  Veterinarians often get to see the cat that a newly married couple rescues from shelter and needs an exam and care. This friend often is along for the ride from first apartment to starter home, through pregnancy and children, through growth in work and personal lives.  Eventually this friend starts to show signs of age and deterioration. Twelve, fifteen, eighteen or more years of life for this kitty can span ages in the growth of a family. We as veterinarians are privileged to see snapshots of growth in the lives of clients and their families with yearly exams and other incidences along the way.  By providing medical care and acting as a resource for families as transitions occur in daily lives, we are asked to play a relatively small but important role in the life of this furry family member.

The general public is also greatly affected by our ability to assist farmers in raising healthy beef, pork and poultry for safe consumption. This is another way that we both directly and indirectly influence the families around us. A veterinarian can certainly be an integral part of a producer’s team and can help produce not only quality product but also with a bottom line that keeps local businesses running strong.

After having been in and around the veterinarian business for over a decade, having colleagues, acquaintances and dear friends that all work in different areas of this field, I can tell you that I have overwhelmingly observed:

Veterinarians truly have a heart for our furry and feathered companions, a calling to advocate for those that cannot speak, and a will to heal in the best way possible.

They also have a heart for people, for families, for farmers and for seriously taking on our role in society.  I am extremely proud to be part of this profession.

Wow. Maybe this is proof that bumper stickers ARE truly effective campaign tools.

And maybe I should stick it on my vehicle after all.