Poe the cat may have lost his manhood, but Helping Hands Veterinary Surgical and Dental Care saved at least one of the animal's nine lives.
Last February, just weeks after vet Lori Pasternak had opened her doors in Carytown, Poe's desperate owner called. Cindy Ceja was seeking a special surgery that could save Poe from an otherwise fatal urinary-tract infection. And she was desperate, driven to tears by visits to other vets, whose fees for the procedure were as much as $2,000. "We couldn't afford it, and I thought I was going to have to put my cat to sleep," Ceja says.
The cat needed a sex-change operation.
Said Pasternak, "They told her [Ceja] your choices are to euthanize the cat or call all your friends and family and see if they can help you afford the surgery."
Pasternak has based her practice on the premise that no pet goes untreated, regardless of the owner's financial circumstances.
She's able to maintain this strange mix of capitalism, altruism and commitment to animal care by keeping her practice simple. She relies on minimal surgical equipment and a collection of cages and recovery beds. And she performs only surgery and dental work.
Add to that Pasternak's willingness to accept volunteer service — either at her clinic or at other animal-related charities — as payment from some clients, and suddenly Ceja's beloved cat was saved.
Financially comfortable pet owners help cover costs for people with no hope of paying. Although she does some surgery at one-half or one-third of the market price, she tacks on just a little to other surgeries — $5, which defrays costs for the low-income pet owners.
Poe's manhood was a small sacrifice for the Ceja family, who paid for his/her $700 life-saving sex change mainly by volunteering at the clinic.
Ceja has continued volunteering, long after her debt was cleared, which reaffirms Pasternak's belief that her business plan will work. "She came three times a week and cleaned," Pasternak says. And "even when she finished her hours, she still comes back."