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Tough economic times trickle down to the animals.

In these tough economic times, people tend to keep what is called disposable income. For example, they will not go out to the movies, stay out of the malls, etc.

In the local paper today, there is an article discussing Heska’s laying off workers. Heska is a specialty veterinary manufacturing company in Loveland, Colorado. The article reports that the company is being hit hard by the economy, and veterinarians are reluctant to make large capital purchases during an economic downturn. An example of this would be buying one of their new in-house blood work machines.

This is a sad turn of events, but it happens every few years and is not surprising. When the economy is poor, people tend to not seek veterinary care for their animals as often as when the economy is good. Unfortunately, this impacts not only the veterinarian’s income, but also the health and well-being of animals.

Having a pet comes with a responsibility and a commitment to the animal that it receives the best care possible whether it is providing quality food to good veterinary care. This costs money. I have seen people “price shop” for deals in veterinary medicine. Clinics have “specials” or discounted services to attract business. Have you ever seen a physician do this? This month’s special: Hysterectomy. All-inclusive from anesthesia to hospital care. Call today to schedule. You get the picture. Did you ever call a doctor’s office to see if her office provides the best price for a service you need? Of course not. You go to the doctor because of reputation, recommendations from friends, or a referral from another doctor. Most people have insurance that will take care of the majority of the bill.

I had to take calls from price shoppers all the time. One time, a woman called to ask my price for spaying a cat. I always explained what is involved, so she would know why my prices were what they were. There really is a difference in care when higher fees are charged. At the end of this particular call, I gave my quote. The woman shouted angrily, “Oh my God, I found a place that charges twenty-five dollars.” Bam! She slammed the phone down. With my ears ringing, I wondered if the place she found uses clean instruments, or if the surgeon washes his hands.

I hope that you will be able to weather the current economic storm. It will pass eventually. Be creative to manage money besides skipping quality veterinary care for your animal friends.

Happy new year!

Earl and I and our animal family wish you health, happiness and peace in 2009.

Tipper the Wonder Husky wants people to keep their dogs on a leash so she won’t be hurt by vicious dogs at-large, and Mary won’t be knocked down and reinjure her hip. Her wish for you is that you will enjoy the company of a dog. Dogs enrich our lives in so many ways. If you can’t have a dog, but would like the company of one, perhaps you could walk the dog of an elderly neighbor, or start a dog walking business. In this economy, people need to be creative about work.

January first is the date all the horses in the world have a birthday. Scooter is grateful to turn 13 (real birthday May 11) after a very serious illness last February. A surprise case of metastatic or “bastard” strangles caused a large abscess in an abdominal lymph node requiring surgery to save his life. He had to rehabilitate up in the mountains at a stable where he could be confined and hand walked. He couldn’t recover at home, because the horses have a barn that is open to the corral. We didn’t want to see Scoot run around and have his innards trailing in the dirt. After his February 13 operation, Scoot returned home April 22. Scooter’s wish for you is to enjoy the wonders of nature. After his recovery, he discovered that he is a fantastic mountain trail horse. He has always been ridden in the mountains, but climbing up steep mountain trails was new to him. We are grateful to Barbara and Kit Struthers for supervising Scooter’s rehabilitation.

Hannah is nine today (real birthday Feb. 23). The Baby’s wish for you is to take time to relax with your pets. Make time for the simple pleasures in life that come with an animal companion. Hannah is grateful that she survived a severe case of bacterial pneumonia one year ago. She spent over a week at the teaching hospital. As soon as she recovered, Scooter got sick. 2008 was a tough year for the Carlson horses. We got the Baby in 2002. I enjoyed the summer she was two riding her alone at Lory State Park. Hannah has developed into a fine saddle horse. She never did finish her year of jumping in 2004 due to my date with gravity on June 24 of that year.

Matthew the Top Cat hopes you appreciate the unique personalities of animals, and know that every cat is different and special. He’s a tough guy, but the caretaker of the family.

Cowboy Joe requests that everyone has a warm blanket to snuggle. He is a fanatic about blankets. Many times, I have fallen asleep to wake up with Cowboy on my lap. One time, while half asleep, I felt chest pressure. I thought it was a coronary. When I opened my eyes, there was Matthew on my chest just above where my arms were folded. He was my ‘heart attack’.

Lastly, Frank would like you to adopt a cat from a shelter. You will be surprised how much you can love someone you just met.

Take each day as it comes, love the life you have been given, change it if you don’t, and remember to bring some joy to someone else. Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy new year. If you had troubles or sorrow in 2008, may they be resolved for 2009. I wish you peace. 

I wish all our animal friends a loving home, safety in the wild, a steady food supply and, especially, people who care for them.

A year passes.

Trauma comes in any form.

Today marks one year since my best friend passed away from cancer. It has been a busy year of learning new things as her personal representative to provide for her family as she wished, but I miss my friend. I miss my personal advisor, life coach and road trip adventure buddy.

The phone call from Jean in July 2007 saying she had masses in her liver lead us to postulate what it could be. She had lived many years in Arizona, so we thought it could perhaps be Valley Fever lesions. But let’s get real. Jean was a cancer researcher before veterinary school, and both of us saw enough cancer in practice to stop fooling ourselves. We knew perfectly well that diagnosing cancer from liver metastases is grim.

When the biopsies came back as malignant, the doctors had to go looking for the primary tumor. They found it in Jean’s esophagus and stomach. Another bad blow.

Jean told me she had a 60% chance of making it, but again, we knew better. There is nothing like hope for getting through a tough time. Jean had hope. She endured chemotherapy, special diets, alternative modalities, and kept a positive outlook. I wasn’t about to dash her hopes.

For a while, she did pretty well. Then, in December of last year, Jean called me to say she was in the hospital to have fluid (ascites) removed from her abdomen. In a private conversation with her doctor in my role as medical power of attorney, after reviewing her lab work with me, this kind man told me he doubted Jean would live a month. Thus began my longest journey with my friend. I would go back and forth to Denver to be with her and her family, including her 88 year-old father, a true man of Catholic faith who knew Jean would go to a wonderful place after she passed.

The hospital released her for home hospice care on December 21. There is a psychic connection I sometimes get that is very strange. On that day, I was so upset that I was literally screaming and crying. All day. It was very bizarre behavior for me. I’m glad I was alone and at home. I understood why it happened the next day. Jean’s brother, Mike, recently returned from a year of civilian work in Iraq, called to tell me that Jean was being returned to the hospital. She had a rough night in terrible pain, and they were calling an ambulance.

I rushed down to Denver, and met them in the ER. Jean was given a room, then taken down for an ultrasound-guided removal of fluid. I looked at the screen. There was no fluid. Jean’s abdomen was full of cancer. I spent the night of the 22nd at her home, and went back to the hospital the next day. Jean decided to distribute her jewelry to friends and relatives. Her brother went to her house to get it. The hour was pretty late, but Mike said that if Jean was up to it, we needed to get it done if that was what she wanted. Mike went home and found the jewelry. His son, Ryan, packaged it, and I recorded every piece for the Estate. Years ago, I had admired an antique blue topaz ring of hers. She promised it to me. This piece was the first one she distributed, right onto my finger. I never thought in a million years that I would have that ring so soon under such circumstances.  Jean signed the record, and leaned back in exhaustion. Although it was one a.m, I had to go home through the snow to get to a medical appointment later that morning. I returned to Jean early in the afternoon.

I spent the next three days with Jean, going to her home to sleep on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. On the 26th, I had to go home. I had an appointment I couldn’t miss on the 27th, and Earl had one at 7 o’clock Friday morning. Jean’s doctor discharged her to a hospice facility. I spent that last afternoon with my friend getting her transferred to hospice. I disagreed with the doctor, as it was clear she had little time. The social worker the facility sent with papers for me to sign, as medical power of attorney, was ill equipped to answer questions. Jean’s sister-in-law found the answers.

I reluctantly said good-bye to Jean. I knew I would never see her again in this life. It was a personal and powerful good-bye. I asked her to ride our mare, Marcie, who had lived until age 30, meet my mother, and say hello to my sister who had been killed by a drunk driver.  Jean promised she would. 

I phoned Jean three times on Thursday. Every call found her fading further away, yet her voice still reflected hope and faith.

Early the next morning, as Earl and I were leaving for his medical appointment, Mike to say that my dearest friend had slipped away a few minutes earlier.

Peace comes in any form.


Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) was one organization Jean wanted donations sent specifically to be targeted toward health studies using alternative treatments. MAF had never done this before. Because of the donations from her family, friends and colleagues; and with other sponsors, the first alternative medicine health study ever funded by MAF is now beginning. Click on here to see the ground-breaking study to be researched in Jean’s memory. 

Today in “Ask Frank”

In Ask Frank, Franklin discusses…..I really don’t know what Franklin is talking about.

At Cousin Jeanne’s dinner last night, she reminded me that I was supposed to bring Matthew to her about two years ago, so he could be her cat. Oops.

Matt was having relationship problems, one might say. There was an outdoor stray cat who kept coming right up to the diningroom window. Cats don’t like this, and their territorial sides come out. Matthew chose his way of marking his territory-using the dining room carpet and wall to spray urine. Yish. Since the carpet was nearly 30 years old, we replaced it, pad and all. Yet, the stray was still around, so Matthew christened the new carpet.

We bought a trap, but all we caught was a young raccoon who, after violent protest, was let go. It turns out that the declawed cat had been dumped by college students, and was on her own. Students do dothis; they are so proud of their pets, but when it comes time to leave, the pet is an inconvenience. Instead of placing an ad in the paper, they let animals go. “Well, it’s a cat, they can live perfectly well on their own.” Wrong. Traffic, coyotes, foxes, etc. all pose a risk for cats. Being declawed is a special risk.

My neighbor was feeding this cat, and said it was living in her horse trailer. I told her of our problem, and my trying to catch it. She promised to take it to her ranch over the border in Wyoming. She did, and the problem was solved.

Matthew stopped marking our home, the new carpet was a success, and I never did take him to Jeanne. She never lets me live it down. Matthew is a wonderful cat. If you are familiar with the Chinese five element theory, Matt is a wood cat-my way or the highway. Many veterinarians are afraid of him, but he doesn’t bite. He’s just really, really loud.

As we speak, I’m charging up my iPod for the ride home tomorrow. Can’t find any 98-cent movies to download, plus I don’t want to use three hours of time on Cousin Deb’s computer.

Merry Christmas!

Yuletide cheer from frozen Chicagoland. Gail and I got out of the driveway yesterday and had a wonderful Italian dinner last night with her mom, who is my first cousin, cousin Barbara and her husband, Rod. Yummy dinner.

Before dinner, Gail and I went to the Fannie May store. No, not the mortgage place, the chocolate store. Fannie May is my absolute addiction in life. No one makes better candy. Credit card is now limp from my treasured purchases.

At least while here, I have my cousin-dog, Gracie to pet. Gracie is a senior dog as Tipper is. Mostly Rottweiler plus something else. Gracie misses her family, my cousin Michael and his crew, who went to England for the holidays. Gracie’s Auntie Gail spoils her rotten, and I think Gracie enjoys being pampered.

I miss my crew, and Earl, who is eating at a friend’s house. This is so much better than last year, when I was staying at my friend Jean’s house, going back and forth to Porter Adventist Hospital, where Jean was dying of cancer. I left for home on the 26th, because I had to have a crown put in, and Earl had a doctor’s appointment. Jean passed away early in the morning of the 28th.

I miss my buddy. It sounds trite, but after what she went through, I know she is in a better place. More later.

Blessings to you and yours.

Today in “Ask Frank”

In Ask Frank, it’s nice to know that the boys miss their cat mother. Franklin discusses how cats do not appreciate change.

I’ll second that motion with a story of my cat, Pruney. Pruney was my cat for seventeen years. She went with me from high school through veterinary school. When Earl proposed marriage, I asked him if he would adopt Pruney. The rest is history. I have many stories about Pruney, but to add to Franklin’s post, here is one.

Jean and Phil went to England after vet school graduation. Dr. Jean Arnold is my dear friend who died almost a year ago. Anyway, they left their calico cat, Lucy, at our house.

I knew perfectly well that cats that do not know each other should be separated. Lucy stayed in a suite that was composed of the master bedroom, bath, and a guest room. Lucy was isolated from Pruney, so there were no problems.

After about two weeks, I thought it would be all right for Lucy to join the household. I let her out of her suite of rooms. No problems. One evening, Earl and I were in the family room watching TV. Pruney came into the room, and in the geographic center of the room, squatted and urinated all over the carpet. Message received. Lucy went back to her suite, and Pruney never did that again.

Cats indeed do not like change.

A nice place to visit but……

Happy holidays from Chicagoland!

I woke up to a mini-blizzard today, just enough to remind me why I don’t live here any more. I left for college at 17 and basically never returned.

Earl is fortunate to have stayed home to tend the animals and prepare for his presentation. For many years as a race track veterinarian, Earl studied race track surfacecomposition and their relationships to injuries of greyhounds and horses. He worked for the State of Colorado as the animal welfare veterinarinan. His job was to see that the racing animals were properly cared for. Occasionally, there were animal rights groups that picketed the tracks, but having Earl as their target was dead wrong. He was the guy that maintained a standard of care for the animals. If there has to be racing, a vet like Earl is needed to ensure proper treatment of animals.

One time, he told me he was going on a raid. There was a group of people holding illegal horse racing on a ranch. I went ballistic! Investigators with guns going onto private property? Busting up illegal gambling? No way. He assured me that he would stay in the car, and when everyone was captured or disbursed, he would check the animals. He had quite a story to tell when he got home.

Earl retired from the State of Colorado over a year ago, but is still working on his study. At least we get a trip to Florida for the presentation.

Da Bears beat the Packers in overtime here in Chi-town last night. I guess being from the area has its benefits. I guess if the Cubs can’t win, at least Da Bears can! There was a piece in the Tribune of drafting “Da Coach,”  Mike Ditka, to be the next governor. Works for me. I’m back in the land of twisted politics, and how I enjoy reading about it in a real newspaper.