Compassion found with University veterinarian

These days, it’s easy to be disgusted with the University. An expensive school is now a more expensive school, construction has turned our campus into a giant hopscotch game and the price of parking continues to increase. Given how the University mistreats students, I was understandably worried when I brought my cat into the veterinary center on the St. Paul campus.

My cat’s original name was “Chicken Shit.” If curiosity truly does kill the cat, he will remain safe for a very long time, as he is too busy running away from everything to actually stop and check it out. Yet, because I’ve had him since the tender age of 11, and my mother has been running a day care since I was born, it didn’t seem wise to have a kitty with a profane name in the day-to-day path of small children. With that in mind, we changed our cat’s name to the much more simple “Wuss.” It’s more politically correct and easier to yell when he is sharpening his claws on the sofa.

Three weeks ago, we brought Wuss into our veterinarian because he was ill and refused to eat. The doctor diagnosed him with a fever and a viral respiratory infection. Although he seemed to be getting better, two days later his right pupil began to dilate. Again, the cat and I visited the veterinarian.

This time, the news was far more dismal: My cat might have a tumor pushing on his eye, forcing it to bulge out. Wonderful! But for a second opinion, he recommended we visit an animal eye specialist for an ultrasound. So the cat and I consulted another vet. He took one look at the eye and promptly referred us to the University for a “cat” scan – yes, I am aware of the pun. So for the third time, my cat and I visited a vet.

Given the aforementioned problems at college, I was leery of anything University-related. I was apprehensive bringing my cat there, especially since their one-of-a kind technology seemed to only promise proof of my cat’s impending mortality. But I brought him in anyway because nervous as I was, I still had to do what was best for him.

While we were bringing him to the University, Wuss was surprisingly passive. Normally, even the shortest car ride is enough to drive him to hysterics. After so many trips in the car to different veterinarians, though, I guess he was getting used to car rides. It was really kind of sad.

When we arrived at the University, we were welcomed and shown to a small exam room. A helpful vet student looked over my cat and even took his temperature in the most uncomfortable way possible – walk it off, big guy.

In a matter of moments, the veterinarian, Dr. Jody Lulich, was in the room with us. He talked with us and checked out Wuss’ eye while drawing some blood for tests. I was impressed with his professionalism. The entire time he kept us involved, explaining what was going on and always asking if we had any questions. It wasn’t enough that he had an idea of what was going on; it was important to him that we knew what was going on. I was amazed. Normally I don’t have such insight into my own medical problems. And here he was, giving every clarification into what was wrong with my cat.

After speaking with Dr. Lulich, we brought Wuss home, with plans to bring him back the following morning for a CT scan. Later that night, I received a call from Dr. Lulich, saying Wuss had kidney failure and needed to be brought in for treatment and IV fluids for hydration. After I got over the amazement that Dr. Lulich was still in the office and making a house call, I collected the cat, and back to campus we went.

I worried about Wuss that night as I drove home. My cat had only spent one night outside of our home – at a friend of ours, years ago, where he crawled into the rafters and hid until we pulled him out. Being stuck in a foreign place with strange people poking and prodding him might not be the best situation. But when we visited him the following day and the assistant carried him out to us in her arms, he purred all the way. He sat with us for awhile and seemed content when she took him back. But it was amazing – in their care, he just seemed to be less of a, well, wuss.

My cat stayed with the kind folks at the St. Paul veterinary school for five days and is home recovering now, eating a special diet for his kidneys and improving every day. The bulging eye that had caused such a concern has disappeared without explanation.

During Wuss’s stay, Dr. Lulich called our home twice a day, once in the morning to let us know how Wuss did overnight and once before he went home at night to let us know how the day had gone. Each and every time, he asked if we had any questions and even kept us up-to-date on the costs and how we could do the best for our cat and our bank account. After all, poor college kids facing tuition hikes don’t have money to throw around.

Through it all, Dr. Lulich and his staff were some of the most considerate, professional people I have ever met at the University.

Now, if they could only do something about that tuition increase.


Chris Schafer’s column appears alternate weeks. He welcomes comments at [email protected]. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]