My Heart is Bisbis-Shaped
I met Bisbis a few weeks after moving back to Amman in 2005. I still remember, very clearly, the first time I saw his unbelievably cute face in a cage full of other kittens. I instantly loved him, a week later I brought him home. He was only three months old and so teeny he could fit in a fez.
The first game we ever played involved me rolling batteries across the floor and him chasing them. Due to his inability to stop running across a slippery floor, every time he took off in pursuit of one he would only come to a stop when he crashed into some cushions. He’d then get back up and do it all over again. To this day that routine is still the most endearing thing I’ve ever seen. My heart was full of love for him from that day forward.
That same night though I felt a twinge of panic, it grew into a ball of regret - this entire time I had been motivated by the cuteness of an adorable kitten, now I was starting to feel the weight of responsibility I’d taken on. I decided not to act on that feeling right away. Almost fourteen years later I can’t explain just how much Bisbis taught me about commitment, responsibility, obligation, and love, and the beauty of these concepts in practice despite sounding burdensome and restrictive in the abstract. In deciding to not follow through on that panic on day one I learned the value of patience and accountability. That panicked feeling turned out to be so fleeting I can’t imagine how different life would’ve been had I acted on it, and I’m so grateful I didn’t - I would have missed out on all these years with the best cat in the world.
I’m not going to share the details of how it all ended, or even how much he meant to me because that’s too personal, also he never learned the ways of the internet so I’m sure he wouldn’t be checking this in the afterlife. So hopefully he knew how much I loved him while he still could.
As most of you know he had a chronic kidney condition that afflicts so many cats across all breeds, but especially his. So much of health comes down to how lucky or unlucky you happen to be in the genes you inherited. He was deeply unlucky so I tried to compensate for it by giving him the best care I could find. To that point, I think my only real regret was not finding the best vet sooner. I went to six doctors before finally ending up at Best Friend Veterinary Clinic. Instead of going over all the ways the vets did him wrong over the years (ask me in person and I’ll share tho) I’m going to focus on the things that went right with Dr. Nassem & co at BFVC.
We started going there almost exactly two years ago, within one week I was in a panic because his poop was so weird, turns out he was overeating for the first time in years! In the lead up to his diagnosis Bisbis had lost so much weight, so much. He went days without eating, I would skip work and put together a buffet and he would just walk away. I was told by one vet that it was pancreatitis in addition to the renal failure, and with conflicting treatments for the two conditions we had to ignore it. He stopped drinking, I was told to give him water with a syringe. This went on for many many months and he seemed to only get worse under their care. Turned out they were wrong in their diagnosis (which they did nothing to test for to begin with). He didn’t have pancreatitis - it was just heartburn and a toothache, which Dr. Nassem swiftly diagnosed and treated.
It’s easy to be dismissive of heartburn and a toothache, but if you’ve ever suffered either you know, minor as they might seem, they have the power to make your life miserable. Sure, renal failure can ultimately kill you (life definitely will kill you), but heartburn can feel like torture. Does it really make sense to ignore it while claiming you care for the welfare of an animal? Dr. Nassem took it seriously and in doing so helped turn things around for Bisbis. No heartburn meant he could eat, eating meant gaining weight, which gave him energy, which boosted his appetite, which kept the renal failure at bay, and just like that he was his happy purring self once again.
For me this story perfectly sums up the kind of care Bisbis went on to have his final two years of life. Bisbis and I went there every two days for two years. Sometimes we went daily for a month or two. There wasn’t a single visit that ended with me thinking Bisbis wasn’t being treated well. Cats suffer mostly in silence and so their pain can easily be ignored. It never was though under Dr. Nassem’s care - his comfort and well being were the first thing we would talk about and the last thing we ever discussed.
No other profession in the medical field is as grueling and as under-appreciated as veterinary medicine. No human doctor deals with a baby all the way from birth to old age and ultimately death, with all the milestones and struggles and scares and adventures that lie between. Imagine the toll that would take: to walk alongside all these animals, who if they’re lucky and live a long happy life will still die too soon because we’re just on different timelines.
No human doctor can properly diagnose and treat the entire body and mind like vets do; whether it’s dental issues, tumors, chronic conditions, behavioral problems, etc, all while dealing with animals who are scared and at times aggressive and their humans who can be very rude and ungrateful, or just panicked and heartbroken. I saw so much while being there every two days for two years. I saw so much joy and happiness and panic and grief and unfortunately I saw people be incredibly rude to staff members who show more care to humans and their animals than anyone else in the world.
I’ve had plenty of bad days at work, I have a trove of hilarious and horrific stories of weird things and awful customers and harassment and really bad luck with neighbors and their plumbing. But even on the worst day no one died at my job. No one has ever lost a final fight in a long series of battles. I’ve never had to share truly bad news and watch someone have to grapple with their new reality. No one ever dies, not many cry. But all these things are daily occurrences for vets.
I’m eternally grateful for the care they showed Bisbis and me, we both got quality of life back once we started going there. I was able to go to work and be productive and have some freedom of movement. He got so much better it was easy to forget how serious his condition could get. Death is inevitable, so the hope then is to have a good life while you can. Bisbis got to have that thanks to a doctor who cared enough to not dismiss quality of life issues - he didn’t ignore his daily struggles just because he was going to die one day.
I wish so much that he was still healthy, happy, and here. I’m glad we met on that random day in August and got to be buddies for the next 14 years because that’s just the most wonderful and unlikely thing in the world. I love you Bisbis, you’re my all-time favorite cat and one of my top three favorite people in the world, I will always miss you.
Best Friend Veterinary Clinic is located close to Safeway, 7th circle. You can find them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/BestFriendVeterinaryClinic/. Don’t be rude to the staff. No one asked me to write this, I just love them that much and I’m forever grateful for everything they did for Bisbis.