Thursday, February 27, 2014

A soft spot

“Open confession is good for the soul.”  ---- Old Scottish proverb

Have you ever made a mistake?

“I thought I had made a mistake once, but I was wrong.”

A comedian said that once. So have a few sociopaths. I must confess to having made mistakes. There, my soul feels better now.

Actually, during the middle of the night, that time when I cannot hide from elements that wander about my brain, I sometimes discover the list of mistakes I’ve made in a lifetime. Something reminds me of a error I’d thought I’d put away, and then the others line up obediently for my leisurely perusal. Nights are long, so there is plenty of time.

A colleague has a friend, a physician, a pediatric surgeon. Once a year, every year, on the same day, this doctor receives a letter reminding him of a child who died while under his care. This has been a regular thing, for 25 years. Best as we can tell, this doctor did nothing wrong, but a patient died while under his care. And somebody has not forgotten. From the look of things, somebody is not likely ever to forget. And they wish to assure that the doctor never forgets.

I can assure you that the doctor will never forget, and the letters have nothing to do with this. But the sender gets a wish granted, for the letters cause pain.

Years ago we used a brand name drug as part of our anesthetic combination for cats. The drug was manufactured in two strengths, one for horses and the other for ten pound cats. Since we don’t see horses, we always used the cat version. One day the drug sales rep mentioned that a generic version of the drug had become available, so we ordered it from that supplier. Used it for a short while, and frankly didn’t much like the new version. This occasionally happens with generics. Then a cat nearly died.  

The horse version of the drug had ten times the concentration as the small animal version. Guess what kind the supply company shipped to us? I didn’t catch it. I ordered one drug, received another, and used it. And a cat nearly died.

I suppose I might argue the point, but it was clearly my responsibility to catch this error. I was the one who had to tell the cat’s owner. I was the one who paid for the emergency care the cat received. I was the one who had to respond to the board complaint she filed. I am the one who relives this periodically, late in the night.

The owner tried to get my license revoked, and she swore that she would never come back, and I didn’t blame her. Two years later, when she called to schedule an appointment to euthanize another of her cats, because our fee for this was less than the practice she now utilized, I refused to see her. We like to think we keep the fees for euthanasia low as a kindness for our clients. We are not attempting to attract……

Several months later, we ordered that same drug from that same company. We specifically mandated the small animal concentration. And we told them why.

They sent the wrong one, again. We caught the error this time.

I’d be ripe fodder for the hate obsessed lady with her hate veterinarians website. I confess…I’ve made mistakes.

Twenty years ago my own dog died while under my care. The details are not relevant. Suffice it to say that Jake was another casualty of my career, another sacrifice I made in the life long obsession to try to help the animals and their people. So yeah, I know what it feels like to hate the doctor that you think killed your pet. And no, I likely will never forgive, ah….me.

People tell me I should “let it go”, but ya know how that goes. So yeah, I do sympathize with the woman who started the internet website who so hates veterinarians. Her cat died while under the care of a veterinarian, so she blames that doctor for that death.

Sure, the cat was twenty years old and it died like most every other twenty year old cat that dies, of kidney failure. Back when this happened we didn’t have dialysis for cats. Truth is we had so few things that could be done to delay the death. No doctor on earth could have kept that kitty going indefinitely. Fifteen years later this woman still hates veterinarians virulently and with enthusiasm and persistence, and she uses the internet to prosecute her vengeance.

When Dr Koshi died, a cat that she had tried to save from a lifetime of neglect in a park was instead given to the self-styled “cat rescuer” who reportedly has said she will release it back into the colony of feral cats living in that park. Despite all the evidence that feeding feral cat colonies is not only bad for the cats, but also bad for wild birds and animals, and a risk to public health…a gaggle of “cat rescuers” joined in celebration of the return of the cat to this woman. And the woman with the hate-website chimed in with her own version of hate. She of course, directed her hate at the doctor.

Don’t know if you caught any of this. But if you did…did you notice this part? Did you notice that other than the vicious veterinarian hater on the web, everyone else, those people in the street aligned against Dr. Koshi pretty much said the same thing? How wonderful that the cat was given to this person. Not a thing about any benefit or harm to the cat if it was to return to the park. Not a word of how well it had fared under Dr Koshi’s care. Nope. How wonderful for the “cat rescuer” was the theme.

This was never about the cat at all. 

Ask any veterinarians what they do, and they will tell you, “I practice veterinary medicine”. Ask any veterinarian WHO are you? And they will tell you, “a veterinarian”.

After a while in this profession, that IS who we are. And pardon the self-promotion here, but we take intense pride in caring about and for the animals and their people. That is who we are.

If the haters manage to take that away from us, and yeah…..that’s where they go because any bully knows you go for the sensitive place first, the soft spot. They attack who we are. They went after the part of Dr Koshi that was the caring, helping, sacrificing essence of who she was. Those people who attacked Dr Koshi took HER away, from her.

What was she left with?


  1. I know of several colleagues, who worked in emergency pet clinics, who have also committed suicide due to the extra stress they experienced there. Some of us care too much for the pets we treat. That is one of the reasons our profession is now #1 for professional who commit suicide.
    There is help out there, if you need it. Don't allow yourself to slide down into that bottomless pit of depression. Contact one of the support groups for DVMs. Learn how to enjoy life as a veterinarian.

  2. It's amazing how little understanding these "cat rescuers" have for basic truth. The Vet Abuse Network linked an article on their site about why veterinarians suffer from depression and suicide... yet their comments on it were that maybe vet schools should screen people better when applying. Its amazing how easy they twist truth in their minds. I will continue to follow Dr. Koshis story and spread the word about insane websites like the Vet Abuse Network.

    1. Its amazing how the story began with incorrect information and then skyrocketed to almost all incorrect information. Had the story really occurred the way written I could understand some anger. But there is so much missing info and incorrect facts that it sounds like a completely different story.
      Ex. The cat rescuer NEVER said she was putting cat back outside even though he was born outside and thrived un the colony. The cat was on his way to a new indoor home when this all took place. The cat was far from neglected. As a matter of fact he was at HIS vet during the summer for a rabies shot, etc. He was given so much love, affection, and attention,Im surprised hes not a spoiled cat. Dr. Koshi put the cat rescuer thru various obstacles for which she said shed return the cat. She asked for huge amounts of money for boarding. When she went there with the money the vet said it was now more because tests were done. She told her to come back in a week when shed have a bill ready. The rescuer went back in exactly a week with MORE money. This time vet put a note in her window large enough for everyone to read. It said if your name is ------- write me your cause. She put licks, cameras, and a doorbell in the clinic. When the rescuer went in to get her cat the vet called the police. It was then that the protest was planned. What would u have done? Would you have just happily left figuring maybe next obstacle shell return ur cat? Dr. Kishi moved the CST from her office and told the newspaper and the court that she adopted him out for money. But where was he really? At her house. There is so.much information missing. This barely touches on it. Therefore dont jump on a bandwagon of a lynch mob who only heard the incorrect saga.

  3. Sadly in my country there's no awareness about vet depression. And there's no community of vet to relieve depression, instead they have community to look other vet mistake.

  4. Your balance and humanity shines through in your posts, and I'd bet you are a wonderful, compassionate veterinarian. I have a wonderful vet here in Tyler, TX who helped my 3 yr old border collie pass last week, he sat on the floor with me and my friend...he spoke gently with us over the half hour we were there, letting Quinn go in levels with propofal before the final injection. I never once thought about cost of euthanasia, only wanting Quinn to finally be at peace after terrible strings of cluster seizures. God bless you for this blog and how it supports others in your profession! I have a fresh respect for my vet and his staff thanks to you, and I will be baking cookies to take in on Monday when another of our dogs goes for teeth cleaning.

  5. Veterinarian work is so tough. It sounds like you handled the mistake as best as you could!

  6. Does this version of the story change anything about theme of this essay? Does it make the on line attacks against the doctor any less vicious? Does it make the gloating over her death any more palatable? Does any of this make it more about the poor cat and less about the irrational embarrassment of pathetic people who put their insane emotional attachment to a cat above the welfare of the cat, or the lives of humans?