Life Saving Adoptions

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Sally rushed through the door with her old cat. 

“Tom has been hit by a car,” Sally said as she stopped at the front desk. “He has been gone for several days and just came home, and he has a big gash on his side.”

Sandy and Joleen ushered Sally and Tom into an exam room and got Tom comfortable on the exam table. I entered right behind them.

Tom’s injury looked worse than it was. There was a two-inch laceration on his left flank. The wound looked several days old and was soiled with dirt and leaves. Tom was oblivious to the wound.

“Sally, this is a nasty wound, but it looks worse than it is,” I said. “It will repair well. I just have to get Tom under anesthesia and make a new wound out of it. I will make a larger incision around the wound and remove all the old contaminated tissue. That gives me a nice new wound to repair.”

“That sounds expensive,” Sally said.

“It will take me a few minutes to give you an accurate estimate,” I said. “But, yes, it will be a little expensive.”

“With all we have going on, I am afraid that we just can’t afford the expense right now,” Sally said. “I hate to say it, but can we just put him to sleep, Doctor?”

“I hate to do that with a superficial wound, but if you can’t afford the repair, I guess that is an option,” I said.

“I think that is what we are going to have to do,” Sally said as she patted Tom on the head. “Goodbye, old boy.”

Sally left the room to take care of the paperwork at the front desk.

“This is terrible,” Joleen said. “If I pay to fix him up, can I take him home?” 

Joleen had just started working for us. She had spent a couple of months at the clinic when she was in high school on a work-release project.

“Joleen, if you try to save every sad case in this business, you will not only spend way too much money, but you will run out of room at home.”

“I know, but this guy will be able to live out his life in my barn with no problem,” Joleen said.

“Okay, but you need to get a signature from Sally,” I said. “Sandy has an adoption form.”

Sally was happy to sign the adoption form, and Joleen was the new owner of Tom. 

Repairing Tom’s wound was straightforward. I got him under an anesthetic and cleaned and debrided the wound, trimming all contaminated tissue and making a fresh skin edge. Then I gave him antibiotics and did routine wound closure with a drain.

“I just want to say again, Joleen, if you adopt every patient with a sad story, you will be overwhelmed,” I said. “Some practices limit the number of animals an employee can adopt out of the clinic. I’ve never done that, but you just need to be mindful of the problem.”

In this case, Tom went home with Joleen and lived out his life in her barn. Many such cats were not so lucky.


Several years later, when Joleen and Larry went on their annual elk hunting trip in the Ochoco Mountains of Central Oregon, the next adoption occurred.

It was the third day of the hunt, and there had been several inches of snowfall overnight. Joleen elected to stay in the camp that morning and tidy things up a bit. The rest of the crew went hunting.

As evening approached, everyone was back in camp and tired. Joleen decided to take her rife and walk down a nearby forest road, just in case a stray elk might cross her path.

Joleen was enjoying the walk and not really expecting to see anything. It just felt good to get out of camp and stretch her legs after the day of working around the camp.

She rounded a corner in the road and came upon a parked pickup. The guy in the pickup had set out a litter of eight young puppies along the road. These looked like six-week-old pups, and they were mixed-breed puppies.

“Just what is going on here,” Joleen asked the young man as he stepped out of the pickup with his rifle.

“I can’t get rid of these pups, and I can’t keep them myself,” the young man said. “I am going to shoot them.”

“Oh no, you don’t!” Joleen said. “Not while I am here.”

“Fine then, you can have them,” the young man said as he tossed his rifle back into the pickup. “I’m outa here.”

There was Joleen, standing in the middle of the road in three inches of snow with eight puppies now huddling around her feet. 

“Okay, guys, it looks like we have some work to do,” she says to the pups as she slings her rifle over her shoulder and scoops up three of the smaller puppies.

Down the road she goes, back to camp, carrying an armful of puppies, with five other pups trailing her and tangling in her feet.

Almost everyone was settled into their trailers when Joleen walked into camp. Larry and a couple of guys were tending the fire but only glanced at Joleen.

“Did you see anything tonight?” Larry asked.

“Oh yes, I saw some things,” Joleen answered. “No elk, but some things.”

One of the guys finally got a good look at Joleen, standing in the light of the fire with all her puppies.

“Where in the hell did you get those things?” Bill asked.

“Some jerk was getting ready to shoot them down the road a piece,” Joleen said. “I put a stop to that, and he said they were mine. He got in his truck and left.”

By now, the whole camp was gathered around the fire and starting to play with the puppies.

“So, the first thing we have to do is get these pups dried off and warmed up,” Joleen said. “And then everyone can pick out the puppy you are going to take home.”

“Now, wait a minute,” Bill said. “You are the one who took these puppies. Why are we going to have to take one home.”

“Well then, Bill, you just go ahead and pick out the one that you’re going to shoot,” Joleen said.

“Good one, Joleen,” Jean said. “Bill and I will be happy to take one of these pups.”

Everyone in the camp took one of the puppies. That left Joleen with three puppies to bring home and place them in good homes. That task only took a short week. Not many people could accomplish that task without an organization behind them. 

All the puppies grew up and lived a good life. Far better than the fate they were rescued from on a snowy evening in the Ochoco Mountains.

Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

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