Alas, poor Rusty, I knew her well

PUBLISHED: 12:47 21 July 2006 | UPDATED: 22:00 28 May 2010

LAST week, we said a tearful goodbye to Rusty. Despite her name, she was very feminine - and a very pretty woman. She could be skittish but was always loving and cheerful and, as it happens, not bad at football. If she d been religious, she d have a been

LAST week, we said a tearful goodbye to Rusty. Despite her name, she was very feminine - and a very pretty woman.

She could be skittish but was always loving and cheerful and, as it happens, not bad at football. If she'd been religious, she'd have a been a rather naughty nun - like Maria in The Sound of Music.

She'd been ill with a hyper-thyroid condition but an operation earlier this year seemed to sort that out. Then, suddenly, her kidneys failed and within three days, she was no longer with us.

Immediately we wondered what else we could have done for her. Had we failed to spot early warning signs? We'd paid for her to 'go private', but even so, had we got her the best treatment?

It's not easy choosing the right practice. Fenland must once have had plenty of vets who spent half their time with an arm up a cow's bottom and every farmer had his trusted vet - even if he cursed his bills.

Now Fen farming is mainly agricultural, our local vets tend to specialise in 'small animals' - like our much missed Persian.

All the pet owner can do is rely on hearsay and take into account things like convenience, parking and opening hours.

The death of Rusty has, too late for her, poor soul, led me to realise there is another way. Since last year, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has run a Practice Standards Scheme. To qualify for accreditation, a practice has to be inspected every four years, comply with rigorous standards and have basic diagnostic and surgical equipment on the premises.

I'd be delighted to be corrected but I can discover only three practices in Fenland (or within easy reach of Fenland) which qualify under the scheme: the Amical and All Creatures Veterinary Centres in March and Vet Savers in Wisbech.

Something else I've discovered is that, if a vet is prepared to supply you with medicines for your pet, you can demand a prescription (free of charge) from the vet and the vet is not allowed to discriminate against you for this. You can then shop around (on the net and elsewhere) for the cheapest supplier.

Mind you, I'd have paid a lot, lot more not to have lost Rusty.

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