Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

• A Tribute to Lorie Huston, DVM

Dr. Lorie Huston, DVM (right) and me at BarkWorld in 2012.
While pet sitting Piewacket, I accidentally spilled water in the small bird's cage when I was cleaning. Although I switched out wet newspaper for dry, he would have no part of me drying him off. When I tried to pick him up with a dry washcloth he firmly chomped down on my index finger. What a bite! I was sure from his zesty response that Piewacket would be all right. But the next time I checked, he lay still on the floor of his cage. I touched his foot. It retracted slightly. I needed help. What veterinarian would be willing to help on a Sunday afternoon?

I thought immediately of Lorie Huston. I'd met Dr. Lorie at conferences and we'd kept in touch on social media ever since. With desperation at my back, I got her home number from the White Pages and left a message. She called a half hour later, but it was too late for Piewacket.

Piewacket in better days.
I sobbed and sobbed Dr. Lorie listened patiently. Then she gently asked questions. How old was he? Did he have any health issues? What was his behavior like over the past few days? Piewacket, who had lost most of his feathers, had been rescued from dire circumstances. His owner had him for many years and coddled the little guy with heat lamps and special food. I didn't have a sense of how he'd been doing during this pet sit. When I cared for him before his cage was at eye level, but this time it was on top of another cage. I only saw him once a day when I fed him. I had to stand on tiptoe so I could get a glimpse of him, since he was always on the bottom level of his cage.

Birds go to the lowest level of their cage when they are nearing the end, Dr. Lorie explained. (Later, when I talked to Piewacket's owner, she confirmed that he'd been spending more time than usual on the bottom of his cage before I started pet sitting.) Dr. Lorie doubted the water had anything to do with Piewacket's death—it was simply his time.

That day Dr. Lorie gave me one of the most important gifts I ever received: the knowledge that the little bird's death wasn't my fault. We talked about how, as a veterinarian and a pet sitter, we were destined to love animals that didn't belong to us. She talked about how helpless she felt when her patients died.

Dr. Lorie was genuinely kind. She took the time to talk to everyone. Even on a Sunday afternoon, even when she'd been working at the hospital all day. I'm certain she'd be embarrassed by all the praise we're lauding on her now, at her untimely passing. I don't think she understood how rare she was.

This article by Cat Wisdom 101 touches on Dr. Lorie's professional life.