Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Animal Hospital

We hadn't been in San Jose more than a few weeks before Tiger, ecstatic to have a yard to play in again, comes inside with a tick. The bite got a bit infected and so I decided to take him for a check up to the nearest veterinarian I could find. The nearest place turned out to be a real "Animal Hospital." To those of us used to those little back office examining rooms behind pet stores, this was certainly a new experience for me.
Before one even entered the door, the signs in front of the building showed you this place meant business:

Once inside I was greeted by two very busy assistants who immediately had me fill in a "new patient " form. A few strokes into the computer, and Tiger's medical file soon joined the awe-inspiring collection in the file cabinet in the back.

Next came a short stay in the waiting room. I think Tiger appreciated the advertising as little as I did, but I did enjoy the free coffee and cookies.

When we were ushered into the examining room, a medical assistant first checked Tiger's temperature, weight, and overall fur quality. Then came Dr. H. wearing a white coat and stethoscopes. She examined the tick bite, listened to his heartbeat, felt his abdomen, and questioned me thoroughly on Tiger's health and vaccination history. She took Tiger away to clean the tick bite and to administer a blood test.

In the meantime, I got into a friendly conversation with Linda, one of the assistants in the reception area. When I told her I was back in the USA after 18 years abroad, she told me to read Bill Bryson's book, I'm a Stranger Here Myself. In fact, she just lent me her own book. Right there, in the office. "Here," she said after having met me only five minutes ago. "Just bring it back when you're done."

A few days later, while I'm in Los Angeles visiting cousins on a Saturday afternoon, my cell phone rings.

"Karen Engel?"


"This is Dr. H. I just wanted to let you know Tiger's blood tests have come in. His BUN levels are within normal but his creatinine levels are a little high."

"Ah, what does that mean?"

"Well, his kidneys are still functioning but they could be a little weak. That would account for his high water intake. You might want to put him on a senior diet."

"Oh, OK, thank you."

That extraordinary experience was soon topped by the enormous bill for this admittedly extraordinary care. ($334.29) I could also mention, just on the side, that I don't even pay this amount of cash for my kids' check-ups. Their kidneys have also never been checked. But then I am sure this blog would be swamped with comments from animal rights activists accusing me of heartlessness and cruelty for feeling guilty for spending so much money and resources on a cat, when I really truly believe that money (and resources) should be spent elsewhere, on human beings, for example.

But I'll save all that for another post.


  1. I remember going through the same experience with my dog. I had to take him in one night to see a veterinarian and the only place that was still open was the Animal Hospital. For a simple check up, I remember the bill was around the same amount you listed. However, I was not fortunate enough to receive the same treatment you got.

  2. Oh my goodness! Animal hospital bills are rediculous and incredibly expensive. I also have a cat, so I feel your pain. I love your visuals. I felt like I was in the pet hospital with you. I completely understand how nerve wracking those waiting rooms can be. Anyway, I absolutely love San Jose, so I am sure you are enjoying the weather and scenery. Good luck with life in San Jose.

  3. That is a lot of money to spend on a check up, but it does sound like you received first rate care. What I am a little curious about though is the canine/feline segregation. Those blue signs in the parking lot hearken back to racial segregation. If I were a cat, I would demand full mammalian equality of care.

  4. Don't feel so bad, I remember how shocked I was when I discovered that they actually offered health insurance for pets. I'm glad people are being so friendly with you and your family, thats a big move for you and your family. I can only imagine what it must be like. Your blog is interesting because alot of us have not had this same experience, and your blog alows us to share some of those same feelings that you and your family are experiencing.

  5. First off, I have to say it is never fun going through an experience where a loved one, or loved animal is in peril (or in pain). I would say that I love your "voice" (how you talk in the blog) in the blog because it feels like you are talking to one person and not the masses. I also love the use of your pictures and I think it really enhances your blog. I think that your blog looks professional and really enjoyed reading it.
    Recommendations for your blog: maybe add some polls? I would love to be able to interact with your blog more-so however you want to do this would be great!
    Thanks for letting me read your blog!

  6. The pictures did a really good job of accentuating the story. I also love the fact that you're returning to San Jose after you said you wouldn't is a good hook. Also how old is Tiger? Did the tick bite mess up his kidneys or is he just old? I would liked to have seen a picture of Tiger. All in all, I liked your post. As I stated previously, I like the drama of returning after saying you never would.