Adventures in Veterinary Medicine: Canyon River Run

If you have pets, you know how vital a good vet can be. Early in my adult life, I had a series of vets I liked at Wright’s Veterinary Medical Center in Bethlehem Township (Pa.) but one by one they all left the practice.

The practice, as I understand it from my Pennsylvania Dutch mother-in-law, started with an old no-nonsense farm vet. His son continued the family tradition and stayed in the practice. From the get-go, I never liked the bedside manner of the younger Dr. Wright but they always had specialists— doctors who handled reptiles or birds, for example—and I always managed to find the “vet who loved cats.”

And truth be told they saved the life of our “Big Boy” Oz when he couldn’t pass urinary crystals circa 2014 and I couldn’t afford the $1,000 proposed treatment. I had agreed to have my daughter’s 3-year-old cat put down and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse— 75% off an even more expensive procedure (removing his penis and widening the opening for his urethra) so he could pass stones easier. A young vet would do the procedure (for the first time) under the watchful eye of an experienced vet. So I did it, and Oz is still with us today.

But when my Opie got cancer, it took me weeks to get it diagnosed because the vet I used to go to had left the practice, I didn’t have a new one yet and Opie couldn’t walk and was intense pain so I took the first available appointment.

And that vet gave Opie antibiotics and said to come back if it got worse. It got worse. He then wanted to charge me several hundred dollars to knock Opie out so they could take an X-ray. A nurse alerted me that that vet didn’t like cats and said I needed an appointment with another vet in the practice.

She took the x-ray with him conscious and diagnosed suspected rare bone cancer via that x-ray.

She was right.

And then she told us to go elsewhere for the surgery because that particular practice was too overpriced.

My daughter contacted No Kill Lehigh Valley, a local nonprofit who specializes in helping people with seriously ill pets. They asked us how much money we had and found a vet who could do the surgery (and it turned out more) for that price. But they were more than an hour away in Tamaqua so we couldn’t keep going there.

And now we are involved with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. Many local vets, animal shelters and other rescue groups work with each other to benefit domestic animals and their owners in the Lehigh Valley.

When the Norse Pride had ringworm, we took them to Canyon River Veterinary Clinic in the Phillipsburg (N.J.) area.

I wanted to support a local vet who also supported the rescue efforts of FURR. So we gave them a try, having them update Opie’s shots and look at a mass on his neck.

Every staff member was not only pleasant but personable, and they all seemed interested in relationship building— not just in-and-out money making vet care.

Today, Opie had his mass removed. The vet at Canyon River was confident his mass was just a dermal growth and we removed it so it wouldn’t pop and cause problems. I declined pre-anesthesia bloodwork, because with Opie’s history, I don’t want to worry about what else he may have. (I know that might not make sense.)

I also told them to send out the mass for the $160 biopsy only if it looked suspicious upon removal. They did not.

We also brought Bean for her first puppy exam and shots and got her microchipped, opted for the cream for the cyst on her lip, and decided to get the optional Lyme vaccine.

AND Fog & Misty went in to get the rest of their shots (it’s looking more and more definitive that Parker, Extra Crunchy and their litter mates did have distemper) and their microchips. And Misty needs to lose weight.

Three cats and a dog in the backseat

All of these animals. All of these, shots, exams and services and my bill was $848. I thought that amazing.

And Amanda and I swapped cockatoo stories for a good ten minutes.

I felt respected, heard, and empowered to make good decisions for my pets.

Thank you to the staff at Canyon River.

Opie’s amputation: 9 months out

This morning I was feeding the cats and I was sitting with Opie as he ate his kibble. Both of our cats will be 9 this March, they aren’t related and we got Opie when he was about 9 months old.

The Backstory

We rescued Oz from the animal shelter as a three-month-old. He was a birthday gift to my daughter, who really wanted a dog but my husband said no. We researched other pets, but in the end her father reminded me that I was good with cats, we already had a cat, so a kitten would mean no new stuff.

Opie was the offspring of a feral cat rescued by friends of ours. Their cats terrorized him. Mine did not.

Opie is not cuddly. He took years to warm up to us and not be so aloof. He and Oz bonded, and even though Oz is bigger Opie was always dominate.

And neither one of the boys ever bothered my female cat, who was 12 years their senior and a force with which no one reckoned.

But when she passed away, Opie stepped into the role as my protector and house gargoyle.

The Cancer

Then last fall, Opie started limping. I didn’t think much of it, because he escapes from time to time and tends to disappear and I thought maybe he jumped from some unknown height or got into a tussle with some other animal. It came and went for months so I thought maybe arthritis. The vet thought maybe an old wound that hadn’t healed properly.

But then he started moping. He wouldn’t put the foot down at all. I spoke with a nurse at our veterinary practice and she recommended a different doctor there at the practice. Apparently the one I’d been seeing, or rather that Opie had seen, didn’t like cats.

The new vet xrayed Opie. The other had refused to X-ray him without sedating him. She warned me it looked like bone cancer in his joint, what would be the elbow in a person. This cancer, she also said, is rare in cats and when they get it, they usually get it in the rear paws.

When she called to confirm that he had the cancer, she also advised me to shop around as her practice was very expensive. I admire her honesty.

My daughter contacted No Kill Lehigh Valley and they found a vet who could do the surgery for less than half what our vet would charge.

This cat’s journey as an amputee also overlaps with my jump-starting my professional career after ten years in retail, and, in a way, hastened the end of my marriage as money had become more and more of an issue.

So, Opie is a warrior. And I suppose a symbol.

Life as a tripod

Opie came through his surgery like a champ. He recovered curled in a ball on my electric blanket on my bed, watching the budgies and probably plotting for when he felt better.

I could tell his pain had dissipated and he was feeling aggravated that he had to wear a cone and we were dragging him.

But this post is about Opie as an amputee and a kitty cat survivor. This is what I have noticed:

  • He can still catch a mouse from under the stove quickly and adeptly.
  • If you scratch him in just the right spot, he forgets he only has three legs and looses his balance and falls.
  • He is still the dominant cat.
  • He has always “buried” his food when done eating. He still does this, and when he does, he moves his shoulder stump as if using both legs.

Random video of my cats reacting to the roomba pushing a cardboard submarine across the floor

And yes, Oz is on my lap and I am wearing footy pajamas.