It is not that I haven’t been able to re-write the Stream of Consciousness (SOC) into a viable post; it’s that I have not been able to do much of anything during the past week. So today, I am finally making myself re-write the SOC into an edited version of a blog post. To remind you, the 20-minute SOC can be found here. The idea of the way I re-wrote this came from blogger Finkelstein and Sons, who I got to know pretty well during Writing 101. I had posted an assignment dealing with the death of my cat, Shadow, and she remembered it, suggesting that I use that as the basis for the SOC re-write.
One thing I want to point out: the final rendering of the written work does not have to follow the SOC very closely. The whole idea of an SOC is to set words to paper. The ideas can be disjointed, or they might actually form an almost complete project. Upon re-writing, the writer decides (or, rather, the story decides) the final piece. So if you compare the SOC for this project with this final version, understand that the story took over.
And now for an edited version…
On Veterinary Care of Cats in the Caribbean
That veterinary care for pets differs from country to country—even state to state—is a given that I think we all can understand and accept as fact. Between differences in standards of care and differences in a local society or culture’s perception of what level of care is appropriate for a pet, it may be difficult for, say, an American moving to a Caribbean island to understand the attitudes, standards, and even availability of medicines that would keep a pet living longer in the States than on the outskirts of a lonely little island. I learned that lesson personally several months back.
At present, I live on a tiny island on the edge of the Caribbean, bordering on the Atlantic Ocean. The island is St. Martin, which is divided into two countries: the Dutch-affiliated country of Sint Maarten on the southern part of the island, and La Collectivité de Saint-Martin known locally as the French Side. The entire island measures about 17 miles across, and the total area—including the vast lagoon on the western side—would fit neatly into Los Angeles County, with room to spare. Because the primary “business” of the island is tourism, the actual population is approximately 44,000 on the Dutch side and 37,000 on the French side, making the entire island one of the smallest political population divisions I’ve ever lived in as an adult. Although customs and human medical care differ on both sides, pet veterinary care appears to be similar. The one thing that is wonderful about this island is that rabies is virtually non-existent, possibly because we also have neither mice nor rats here. And I have yet to see a bat. The only rodent I have ever seen here is something that resembles a kangaroo rat which reminds me of a gerbil with kangaroo rear paws.
Not long ago, I learned about island attitude differences between pet cats and dogs. As almost everywhere in the Americas and Europe, dogs are generally treated with much the same attention as one would give a human being. Cats, although much loved by the people of the island, receive less care overall, but even in the US they rarely need as much as dogs do. Cats are inoculated against rabies and, if requested, some of the other more common cat diseases such as feline leukemia virus, but are otherwise seen as independent creatures that have their own means of survival. When my five-year-old cat, Shadow, came down with pancreatitis during the same period that I was undergoing treatment for massive blood loss from bleeding ulcers, I learned about cat care on the island first hand. It’s not that she wasn’t treated for her ailment to the best availability of medications here; it was that it was difficult for the people in the veterinary hospital to believe that we were willing to spend a great deal of money to cure her—or at least have her provided with the services needed to keep her reasonably healthy for several more years.
As my own illness continued and led to more problems, so did Shadow’s condition continue to deteriorate. Between the months of October and January, she spent more time in the clinic than she did at home because she began to develop diabetes, and her pancreas was not responding to antibiotic treatment or even intravenous feeding. Of course, Shadow was a very independent little cat who kept tearing out the IV line, but the worst part was that we were unable to keep her fed, whether with the low-fat cat food purchased from the vet clinic (wet and dry), or supermarket low-fat equivalnts. She would come home from the clinic, eat in her usual manner for three days (regardless of food type), then stop eating and drinking. We tried hand-feeding. We tried to force food and water into her using an eye dropper or medicine syringe, only to find we needed to return her to the vet clinic for help. This almost always resulted in stays of five to ten days.
Although the diabetes was discovered fairly early, it was not until January that an attempt was made to try different forms of insulin to try to stabilize her. I understand that the population of the island is small, and that we are so far out in the eastern Caribbean that anything is difficult to procure quickly and easily. But it seemed to me that there had been plenty of time to express import a variety of insulin preparations—either from the States or from The Netherlands—to find the one that worked. We were willing to pay for the express shipment and for insulin that might not turn out to be the right kind. Yet, there was a reluctance to order products that might be “the one.”
Diabetes among cats is not an uncommon condition, I have learned through internet searches by my husband as well as my own searches. Despite all the cats I’ve had over my 65 years, and all the cats of my friends, however, I had never known a cat to suffer from the disease. I’ve had many friends whose dogs developed diabetes and whose lives were extended through daily injection of insulin—but never cats. It wasn’t until I got online that I discovered that diabetes is more prevalent among cats than I had been aware. American veterinary clinics diagnose and treat cats regularly for the condition, with access to a variety of insulin combinations that can be tested until the correct one is found. Not here on the island. Again, I believe that this is, in part, due to population size and partly due to attitudes and customs. Overall, it does not pay to carry the variety of medical preparations here that would be found in the US with its substantially larger population centers and ease of product mobility.
If Shadow had been a dog, several varieties of insulin are available locally, and several others are available within a few working days’ delivery. In fact, some of the canine products had been tried on Shadow until the promised shipment of several types of cat insulin would arrive in the hopes that one would help her. The dog insulins did not work, the cat insulin orders were never processed by the clinic’s main office on a neighboring island (we learned later), and Shadow was basically doomed. I will never know if there was a judgement call made on the part of the veterinarian or the main office, or if there was mishandling of the order, or what—the Caribbean has its own way of doing things, and it is difficult to determine what exactly went wrong, if, in fact, anything had “gone wrong.” Had Shadow been more than 10 years old, I don’t think we would have gone through such drastic measures to save her. If I had a home in the US to return to at will, I would have taken her home for care. Many issues were involved, not the least of which were custom and “local” mores.
The one thing I learned from this whole experience was the difference in attitudes about pets here—and perhaps in all of the Caribbean. To say that dogs are valued far more than cats would be a judgement call that I lack the information to make. However, the fact that medications are much more readily available and more easily obtained for dogs makes me think that cats are considered the more expendable pets here—or perhaps the more resilient. That they keep down the lizard population runs in their favor. Thus, many feral cats are captured, neutered, released, and kept well fed and inoculated against rabies by several volunteer agencies. Whether the programs exist because of cats’ prowess against the lizard population or for some other reason, I don’t know. Who volunteers for these groups is also something I don’t know. For certain, many of the volunteers are Canadians and Americans, and many others are from major South American countries—this I’ve learned mostly from the local newspapers when the groups are featured in public service profiles. How many people who were born and raised on this or neighboring islands share in this voluntarism, I cannot say, although I know none personally.
This I can say for certain: people here love cats, but their attitudes toward medical care of cats as compared to dogs differs substantially.