Abby Whiting, DVM
A few years ago I had the pleasure of helping the Sisters of Carmalite monastery care for their beloved cat, “Saint”. Now I am not exactly a religious person, and certainly not let’s say the ideal parishioner…but I have so much love and admiration for these nuns.
“Saint” was a young neutered male indoor/outdoor cat who inhabited the rectory and provided companionship and comic relief to the sisters as well keeping the mole population out of their garden. For those who may not know, the Carmalite nuns are a sect of Catholic nuns with a vow of poverty and an absolute commitment and conviction to God and service of his people. These amazing women grow their own food, make their own robes, and live a truly inspired life.
One afternoon “Saint” was brought in not feeling well: because Saint’s care is not usually an expense they had planned on, finances were limited. I treated him conservatively and sent him home with my phone number. The following day, a call from Sister Maccaletta: Saint was worse. I met them at the clinic and sure enough he was a very sick cat…I felt pulled to help this cat. I quickly arranged with the practice that I should donate his care to them…and they agreed! I started treatment for Saint’s tulermia right away. I am grateful to tell you that with faith, the healing presence of modern medicine, and true love Saint made a full recovery.
I went on to see Saint twice a year for his annual wellness check ups and to talk with the Sisters. They included me in their weekly prayers as a thank you. For reasons I cannot exactly explain I have felt a sense of connection to these nuns and their cat that goes beyond what I can comprehend. I left that practice and started working emergency only and suspected I had seen the last of the Sisters but knew the practice would continue to care for Saint.
Fast forward a year: I had not seen them since their last wellness visit. I was working a busy ER day shift and facing a number of challenges: including a difficult euthanasia and some complicated medical cases. The day was by no means “smooth”. …let’s call it what it is…I was having the kind of day where you feel like your rear end is getting kicked in a can. In addition to a tough work day, I was feeling lonely and health problems among my family had me worried.
I sat down at the doctor’s desk next to another ER vet and said, “I sure could use something good to happen about now!” To which she laughed and said “If only it worked that way”. Yeah I thought , if only. Ten minutes later the front desk had a phone message for me…from a friend.
The message was from Sister Maccaletta asking me to call the convent. Uh oh I thought 1). What’s wrong with Saint!? 2). How did these ladies find me? I called the number and waited for Sister to pick up. The warmest “Oh Hello, Doctor!” greeted me. She went to tell me Saint was doing well but that during her daily prayers today she had felt compelled to talk to me and offer support to me if I needed. She said she was so strongly moved she requested to look me up on the internet and her supervisor allowed it!
My heart literally danced with joy. It was exactly what my spirit needed. I was instantly feeling better, not overwhelmed by my job, my cases, or life…I was feeling loved. We talked and I told her how much her call meant to me. The following day she dropped off home made raisin bread for me for the Holidays along with the most beautiful prayer for peace in my heart.
The reason I share this story here: is I realized that the Universe will send us what we need if we can open our hearts to receiving it. I cannot explain what made her think of me, or call me…but it feels an awful lot like a guardian angel’s hug. It restored my faith in humanity, in grace, and in my journey to provide care to people and their animals. To pay it forward, pay it back I did a few gratefulness exercises and I encourage you to do the same. 1). I sent a care package of cat food and treats to Saint. 2). I sent a bottle of her favorite wine to the DVM who graciously did my dog’s dental… which was a complete overhaul . 3). I stopped a few technicians at work: those I do not know very well, and told them something they do better than anybody.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.