I booked Carol Stevens of Carol's pet sitting to look after our cat from
Dec 16 2009 - Jan 3 2010, almost 3 weeks. She was supposed to come every
other day for a total 10 visits.
It was a little difficult to arrange the home visit due to the Thanksgiving holidays but this did not seem unreasonable. I showed her the house and explained the routine. It was all very straightforward with the exception that out treasured cat, Asia, was 17-years-old. Carol said she specialized in pets with special needs, and she charged a little more than what I've payed for a pet sitter in the past so we left for our holidays confident that she would be well looked after.
We arrived home before midnight on December 3rd. A pit formed in my stomach when I saw that the mail had not been collected. Inside the house I was horrified to find there was no sign anyone had ever visited for the last 3 weeks. Asia's water feeder was bone dry. I ran up stairs expecting the worst.
What I found was worse.
Asia lay in her bed just barely alive, she struggled to turn her head and give me a single "mew". I grabbed the bed and ran downstairs. In shock, and not thinking I refilled her water feeder and set it down in front of her.
In denial, I expected her to get up and drink and be fine. Of course none of those things happened.
Almost afraid to touch her, I lifted her out of the bed. She felt like twigs wrapped in wet newspaper. I was afraid she was going to fall into pieces in my hands. She weighed almost nothing. I set her on floor by the water and stared stupidly. Again it was all she could do to roll her head.
I ran to my computer and looked up a 24-hour animal hospital (Adobe Animal Hospital, who where terrific by-the-way).
I was afraid I would stop her breathing carrying her, but I was in a panic now, so I just grabbed her and ran to the car, laying her as comfortably as possible on the front seat.
I was surprised that she survived the 10 minute trip. At the hospital they put her on IV fluids and began running some labs. The quick turn-around labs came back that she was in almost complete kidney failure.
The vet was compassionate but frank, "This is what a cat looks like when its about to die," he told me. For the first time I started to cry, as I had to contemplate the decisions ahead. The Vet made it clear that there was going to be no simple recovery, her only chance would be with a significant commitment of resources not really appropriate for a 17-year-old cat.
I couldn't make that decision, that night, to abandon Asia, who had been with me for so many years.
I drove home alone, nearly hysterical with grief. I wondered what had happened? Maybe Carol got in an accident?, some sort of personal tragedy. I penned her off a quick email, and this is the response I got:
My precious Asia, who I loved and cared for, for 15 years lies in the ICU clinging to life because Carol Stevens couldn't remember to put an appointment in her computer after visiting a house. At no point in those 3 weeks did any dim memory of the hour she spent with us remind her that there was a pet slowly wasting away in agony due to her irresponsibility and neglect.
Over the next 2 days I visited Asia in the ICU and made the difficult decisions about her fate. There were infections and complications, good news and bad. Her kidneys recovered more than the doctors thought possible, but in the end, despite the improved blood chemistry she could not stand. The doctors suspected brain damage from the extended dehydration and kidney failure. Even with extensive intervention her long term prognosis was not good.
I spent a last hour with her, before I had to make the terrible decision to have he her put down. Only after all this was done did Carol bother to mention that she had insurance that would cover the vet bills.