Philadelphia, or as so many refer to it “Philthadelphia,” is supposed to be the “city of brotherly love,” but our streets are plagued with so much violence it’s hard to identify with that sentiment anymore. However, there are pieces of Philadelphia that still believe in compassion, and one of those places is the Frankford Animal clinic.
The Frankford Animal clinic located on Leiper Street is headed by Dr. Gul and Dr. Patel, and is further helped by the caring staff. My family has been taking our cats there for years and we have always been well cared for and felt fully informed.
However, it was just recently that the people at the clinic did more then just show their usual care; instead they showed us that there is still compassion in our city. On June 4rth we brought our nine year old cat Ody for a checkup. Ody has always been a rather full figured bundle of white fur but in recent months he had lost a significant amount of weight and had become very lethargic.
Dr. Patel was on duty, we took Ody out of his carrier and placed him on the table, he immediately weighed him, and we were horrified to learn that our once robust kitty only weighed 8 pounds. Dr. Patel then checked Ody’s ears and feet and simply said, “Jaundice.”
He then felt Ody’s stomach, as Dr. Patel pressed on Ody’s lower abdomen Ody let out a cry, and Dr. Patel then took my hand and pressed it where his hand had been, “Do you feel that?”, he asked. I only nodded as I felt the hard rock under my fingers. “I’m not going to waist your time or money on a bunch of blood tests,” he said. “He has been suffering for a long time, probably haven’t seem him going to the bathroom?” I shook my head, “No, he was having trouble,” the words seemed dumb as they hung in the air.
“There is nothing you can do for him,” Dr. Patel said. My mother who had been standing beside me voice seemed stretched as she said, “We need to put him to sleep.” I watched Dr. Patel nod, and then the tears blurred his words, his face, his gestures, the room, everything melted with a nod of his head.
I looked down at Ody who was lying so still and sullen on the table. I knew this is what Ody needed, I knew it would mean his pain would be over, but at the same time I didn’t want to let him go. It wasn’t fair, I came there to have my cat checked and he was supposed to go home with me.
“Can we stay with him, when you do it?” my mom asked, her tears dampening her words.
“Of course,” Dr.Patel said. “Come this way,” he picked up Ody and gestured for us to follow him to another room where he laid Ody gently down on a table. I kept my eyes on Ody, watching his golden eyes flickering around the room, his small white body rhythmically moving as he breathed in and out. Dr. Patel was explaining the process to us, but I was processing memory after memory of Ody. Ody as a kitten, Ody at his largest, and Ody in the last few months. I placed kiss after kiss on the gray spot on his head, and whispered how sorry I was for not knowing his pain, for not saving him sooner.
Dr. Patel left us alone with Ody for a while, just my mom, me, Ody and someone else’s very talkative cat. We said our goodbyes, one of the ladies in the office came back to get Ody’s information and finalize our wishes for his ashes. Then Dr. Patel returned, and said, “I want you to know you’re doing the right thing,” he smiled reassuringly, “this is best for the animal.” I saw my mom nod, but I kept my eyes on Ody, and the rise and fall of his back.
I saw Dr. Patel insert the needle in Ody’s front leg, and then he said, “It should only be a few minutes,” then he was gone, leaving us to assist our loved one, a son, my brother, a loyal friend to a better place.
Before Dr. Patel put the stethoscope to Ody’s body I knew he was gone, because the rise and fall had ceased, the flickering in his golden eyes was gone, my Ody was safe now, away from the pain.
Through my tears I took the now empty carrier from Dr. Patel. I, with my mother found my way through the rooms into the waiting area, I saw the waiting patients look at me, acknowledging that my tears meant loss. I heard their wishes of sympathy, I felt their sad smiles, and the reassuring hug from my mother as we paid for our visit and left the clinic, but the empty carrier case, and continues flood from my eyes weighed me down the whole way home.
A few days later, after many tears, after watching and trying to explain to Ody’s other furry brothers and sister that Ody was gone and was in a better place we received a card in the mail from the clinic. My mom refused to open it, so I did. It was a sympathy card, it was simple, a cat on a window sill, and on the inside the staff’s condolences at the loss of our loved one.
Now, I’m sure the clinic does this for every family that has to say good-bye, and I’m sure that we are not the first family to leave in tears with an empty carrier, but in the moments leading up to my last moment with Ody, in the moments after Ody was gone, and inside that sympathy card there was always compassion. A rarity, a blessing, and something my family and I will always be thankful for.