In praise of veterinarians

July 4, 2008

Imagine a world in which our doctors treat us the way veterinarians treat our pets. This occurs to me as I stare at a three-by-two-inch can, the temporary resting place of Bok Choy Tong. The can is painted with red, orange, and blue flowers, not unlike our garden where her remains will be spread.

Before Bok Choy died last month at eighteen, I learned more about her body and health than I know about mine. Granted, my doctor hasn’t treated me nearly as often. But in similar circumstances I doubt he would spend hours explaining his findings. At times during Boychoy’s last year, I thought I was attending an introductory class in feline physiology.

I’m also confident that I will never receive the empathy that Bok Choy’s veterinarians and their staffs lavished on her. My doctor won’t tear up when telling me my time is short. Then again, people aren’t as disarmingly loving to each other as they are to animals not even their own.

After kidney disease finally doomed Bok Choy, we received cards in the mail. Two were from her regular vet, Dr. Chandra Scott of Broadway Medical Clinic in Portland, and specialist, Dr. Regina Tobin of Cascade Veterinary Referral Center in Tigard. The cards included hand-written sympathy notes from the doctors and their staffs. A technician at the Tigard office, Marci, wrote:

Bok Choy had the best name a kitty could have! I will truly miss seeing her and humming a special tune that was just for her.

A third card from the Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine arrived yesterday. The Broadway clinic had sent the college a “generous donation” in Bok Choy’s name.

I have no significant complaints about my medical care. But when my end is in sight, I hope I’ll suffer with Bok Choy’s stoic nobility. I also hope to see the same love she saw, written on the faces of my new doctors, veterinarians, as they pet and praise me in my final days.