IMG_0792We took Norbert to the vet yesterday because he is having problems with his teeth. The estimate to have two teeth extracted? Upwards of $1450.00.  I do not have $1450.00  My credit card limit is $500.00.  And no matter what decision I make I get the judgement of being a asshole. If I don’t get it done I am asshole for not taking care of him. If I do, I’m an asshole for spending almost $1500.00 on a cat when that when that kind of money would feed a lot of people for a month. I feel like I am being held for extortion.  “We will help your beloved cat but pay us a month and a half of wages.”  It needs to be done. There are no other options. Norbert is 12 this month so vet bills are to be expected. But $1450.00? It makes me sad. It also bring up the question of when I go to work and gently and lovingly care for a person who is dying. I would never expect that kind of money. Honestly, I don’t feel right getting paid at all but since I work in the non-profit sector I can deal with it. If you can’t afford to pay for care you still get the same level of care and pay nothing. How can you claim to care for something but expect huge amounts of money for doing so? Ah, but the world has always left me confused… baffled.

This morning I got my raggedy hair trimmed.  It is still raggedy because that is the way when you have wavy hair.  It looks better than it did.


The anxiety came back a bit today, mostly  because the issue with Norbert but I was having weird dreams where I was trying to find my husband and I didnt know where he lived and I couldn’t remember his phone number or dial the phone. In that tiny space between waking and sleep I couldn’t remember where he was. Of course, within milliseconds I knew he was here in our home but it was disconcerting. It’s weird how dreams stay with us even when they are complete nonsense.

It is a lovely warm day here. I sat in the sun for a bit. Did laundry. Cut some bluebells.  Last night I watched, “Grandma” with Lily Tomlin which was entertaining. We also had some trees topped yesterday because they were blocking the sun where our garden is.

Yesterday at work I had the most beautiful moment with a young palliative patient. She is just a little older than I am. She is very, very ill and just finished another round of chemo. She is trying to stay alive for her son’s wedding in September but it’s getting to be too much. Much too much. She looked so tired, so beaten down that I suggested that I could tuck her into bed and leave early so she could go back to sleep. At this point she started crying and said she didn’t want me to leave, her words raw and desperate. I went over to her, sat on a chair right in front of her and just helped her hands while she cried. Cried from pain. Cried from being so very tired. Cried from having a life cut short. Cried for the unknown. I didn’t do anything special.  I told her I had no words. I told her that I will miss her when she is gone. And I told her that I was holding space for her. That she and her life mattered to me. Honestly, these words I am writing  do not connect or portray the moment. Sometimes life is beyond words. A newborn baby being placed on your stomach. Sitting by your mom as she takes her last breath. Holding someone’s hand as they cry for a life cut short.   I get to be part of one of the most intimate part of someone’s life. That deep part of dying, beyond the brave face. Holding someone’s s hand as her life is being snuffed out,  each breath bringing her closer to death. And this is why I do what I do. It is a calling. And I am the blessed and privileged beyond measure.

42 thoughts on “

  1. I loved reading this about you and about how you honor people who arec comforted by your presence. I’m sorry about that vet bill. That is so much to pay. I hope the vet office will allow you to pay a little each month.

  2. You’re the person I would want with me if I were in a similar position. You are amazing.

    Second opinion on Norbert? A little done at a time? Can’t they bill you for a monthly payment? Sometimes vets and doctors confuse me so much.

  3. Oh I love this. Not about Norbert, but your encounter with your patient. So beautiful and that is why I do this work also. Those moments are such an incredible honor. And you, if I was every in need of care, I would want you to be my caregiver. Someone who understands the depth of what they are giving to another…..not everyone understands that. About Norbert… around. There other procedures that can done to clean their teeth.

  4. It is wonderful how you handle your client needs at work. 1450 is not unusual for dental…is there a college of veterinary medicine near you? Sometimes, they work for less so that students can train. A payment arrangement should be offered if you explain your situation.

    • That is a good idea and didn’t even think of that. Unfortunately, I live on an island and while there is a university, there is no vet program.

  5. I’m so sorry for the woman you were writing about, but happy at least that she had your attention and love for a while so she could just let it all out.
    I would honestly shop around a bit for a different vet and a different opinion. I’ve learned that cat dentistry is the new way to get extra bucks. We were told by a vet a long time ago that our cat Nelly should have dental work (cleaning, thorough exam, possible other work). We heard that it was a standard thing that this particular vet office always recommends. Well, Nelly did not have dental work done, and she lived to the ripe old age of 19! Just a thought.
    Take care, Jenn

    • The reason I love palliative care is because dying is a fact for all of us. I know that my being there, just being there, can make that experience a little easier.

  6. You are right- sometimes there just are no words. So, sitting and holding hands is a holy thing.
    As to Norbert- what happens if you don’t do anything? That just seems like a ridiculous amount of money for some cat dentistry? Can you take him to another vet to get another opinion?

    • We are going to just wait a few days and treat him with Vetiricyn for a few days and see what happens. We are considering a different vet but I have heard that this one is the cheapest. Will see.

    • Forgot to add that my sister had to spend $2000 for her large dog to have some dental work done. We’ve had several cats and don’t have the money for dental care for them, they don’t seem to mind. When my cats got old I’d just make sure they got more soft food. If they had ever had an abscess or were in pain I’d have paid whatever to help them but they always seemed fine so they had to keep their tartar.

      • I have to agree. They are animals and have very different needs than us humans. I just don’t have that kind of money and I may be an asshole but it seems preposterous to me. But I do love him. It’s such a hard decision.

  7. Wow. A) The vet bills (I feel ya on the conflict and anxiety) and B) Your following comments about your client. It was so beautiful. I’ve had many similar thoughts feeling the similarities between birth and death transitions. I loved working as a doula and I’ve considered work at the other end of things, I just think it would be too much for me. Love all the love. You are amazing. You are wonderful. So glad to know you. Stay you.

    • You are a mom with a small child. I didn’t even think about all this stuff until my kids were well into their teens. You will get to that point too. BB will be a teenager in a blink. Until then, love and cherish your time with him. God. I sound like an old mom. I guess I am!

  8. You have one of the most rewarding jobs. Very challenging and certainly very heartbreaking at times, but rewarding. You touch the lives and souls of these people. I used to volunteer with hospice in Kingston and I am probably going to volunteer for hospice where I live now. And they have a residential care centre here, which is where I’d like to help out.

    • If I wasn’t working doing what I am doing I would definitely volunteer at a hospice. I think it’s great that you do this. They need younger people.

  9. It is quite obvious that you love your job, Birdie. You are a sweet soul. As for Norbert, is it not possible to get the work done by a veterinary college…maybe cheaper? Just asking, because here in Montreal there are a couple of animal hospitals that are not out to put people into the poor house, but they are still very good vets and do great work, just at a fraction of the price.

  10. Sorry about Norbert. It is shocking how expensive the vet procedures can be. As for your calling, your vocation – the depth of your kindness is astounding.

  11. I would try calling the SPCA and see if they know of any vets who could do the work at a lower cost.

    As for your work, I’m thankful that your patients have you. Take care Birdie.

    • I just called the SPCA and they thought the price was quite reasonable. I feel like I
      am on Candid Camera. Or in the Twilight Zone.

  12. These people are just another form of clutter but I agree. You have that choice to accept what they think about you and your choices. Just like you can choose to let the rubbish go and do what’s best for you and your family.

  13. OMG!! Almost $1500 for two teeth? Are you fucking kidding me? We had teeth pulled for Spunky and the bill was only $180. I kid you not. That vet of yours over charged you big time. Hell, I only paid $200 for one tooth to be pulled by my dentist last week. Is there anything you can do about that? I mean, to see if the vet over charged?
    As for you, my dear, you have an old soul. I have found that those that really care for others the way you do have an old soul. You are someone this world needs for people near their end time. Birdie, you have a true reason for being here on earth. I believe this with all my heart.

  14. Dearest Birdie, you are a portal, through which love, compassion and empathy flow. I can visualize the warm waves as I read this. Is it within your power to contact the son of your patient and encourage him to have a marriage ceremony in his Mother’s presence, before it’s too late?
    Regarding Norbert, that estimate sounds high. Try contacting vets in the community who do low cost spay and neuter. They might be more inclined to help you out.

    • I thought of the same thing but because of confidentiality I can’t contact the son. To me, it would be a given to move the wedding up. ER, are you new to my blog? If so, welcome!

      • Birdie, maybe my computer is giving you a new sign in? We go back a ways. Myeffingpony and ER (English Rider) should ring bells. I’d still try a private vet that participates in low cost spay neuter programs. You might get a different attitude. vets also have access to an interest free payment plan. I think it’s called CARE.

  15. A lot of veterinary clinics seem to practise highway robbery. They’ve got most of us over a barrel — we can’t afford their exorbitant fees, and we can’t afford not to pay them, either. We had a beloved vet here who used to charge hardly anything. He’d say “I make a very good living already; I’d rather see people able to afford to care well for their pets and livestock.” Oh what a wailing there was, all about the countryside, when he retired and moved away!

    Numerous times I’ve dreamed I was extremely pissed off at my hubby, and when I woke up it took a while to unruffle my feathers, even though the poor man was totally innocent of wrongdoing.

    Thank you for sharing some of your work moments. Times like those are so profound and you’re right, they’re never forgotten.


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