Monday, June 14, 2010

the most important recommendation i can make to you

Today's recommendation has been almost a year and a half in coming. If you read through, you will see why. This might be triggering for some people. I know it is for me. But I need to write this so that maybe, someday, the right thing will happen, and to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else. All I really ask is that if you read this, please try and be respectful of what happened to me and how it has affected my life. All I ask is that you respect my pain and grief even if you don't agree with the reasons for it.

Every time I have tried to write this since December 2008, I have gotten physically ill and just couldn't do it. But today i am forcing myself to. I know I'm going to be sick the rest of the day, but I have to do this.

Consider this entry an open letter to the CEO of Pets Mart, Philip Francis.

Today's recommendation is boycotting Pets Mart because their groomers killed my cat. Pets Mart kills pets.

Dear Mr. Francis:

My cat, Einstein (or Ei[se]nstein) was my life. He was beautiful. I got him when I was 16 years old - he was a 12 week old rescued runt kitten born to a Persian my dad's friend rescued from a cat mill. He was fun, affectionate, and a good friend. Although I did not have papers for him, he was purebred.

When I moved to Indiana in 2008, he sat on my lap for the majority of the 12 hour trip. He was in good health and loved his new, spacious apartment (that I paid the rent for).

On December 17, 2008, I was about to leave to visit my boyfriend after the end of my first semester out here. As it was finals, I realized at the last minute that I had forgotten to schedule a grooming appointment for Einstein and I did not want the cat sitter to have to deal with grooming or brushing him herself.

Einstein had been to the groomer many, many times in his life, and had also been groomed at home by me. Each time I took him to a groomer, they gushed about how easy he was to work with, how friendly he was.

Because I worry, I worried each and every time. But he was fine. Each time I groomed him, he was obviously not happy, but he was cooperative and never displayed any ill effects.

Except for the one time in my life I patronized Pets Mart. Specifically, the location at 240 N Gates Dr, Bloomington, Indiana.

I was happy, at first, that they had gotten him in on such short notice. I wasn't feeling well that day. I got out of the car and slipped on the ice. I had a fleeting thought that I should reschedule this. I didn't. If I had, everything would have been different.

I dropped him off. While I waited in line, I snapped a picture of him in his carrier and emailed it to my Livejournal, hoping to do a before/after picture. "Take good care of him," I said to the dumb girl who checked him in (and also apparently killed him). "He's all I've got."

And that was it. That was the last I ever saw him alive.

I walked to Old Navy, intent on idly window-shopping until they were done with him.

While I was at Old Navy, less than 15 minutes after I dropped him off, I got a phone call from Pets Mart. They said that he was "panting heavily" and that "his tongue turned blue." Involuntarily I let out a horrified gasp. I asked if he was okay. They didn't answer, and only told me to come over there.

I sprinted back to the Pets Mart, where my life unraveled.

I ran to the groomers, my hands shaking. They told me to go to the vet people. The receptionist did not get off the phone or acknowledge my presence. I called Thom, my boyfriend. I was panicking.

As I told Thom what was going on, I noticed the groomers watching me through their window, pointing at me.

At one point I sank to the floor. Not once did anyone acknowledge me, ask if I was all right, or offer any updates. I started sobbing. I don't really remember how long that went on and at one point everything kind of grayed out. Finally I was told to go into a back room. As I entered, the dumb girl who checked me in came storming out.

That was it. It was over. All the manager said over and over was, "We're sorry." I could not process this as realty. I still can't, on many levels. I sat there uncomprehending. I asked to talk to the vet, who was one of the most condescending and sneering individuals I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with, and I am not just saying that because she killed my cat. She rolled her eyes and obviously could not hurry away fast enough. She tried to sell me an autopsy. Nice, huh?

For hours, I sat there. Nothing was done to preserve my privacy or dignity. As I sat sobbing and holding my dead cat, the receptionist's child or some customer's child kept peering into the window of where I was sitting. I didn't know what to do. I had just moved here. I barely knew anyone. All I had was my cat. And he was taken from me by some hourly-wage employees of a big box store. I had no idea what to do. I wanted to call the police, but I was waiting for someone, anyone, to advocate for me, to help me negotiate what had literally always been the product of my irrational worrying imagination.

At one point, the manager asked how old my cat was. "Nine," I said.

"That's a real long life for one of them flat-faced cats," he said. What compassion! What empathy! Also, what an incorrect statement! ("Typically, the life span of a Persian is 15 years and up.") My cat was not old. He was middle-aged and in good health, and his life was cut short due to this company's incompetence.

At another point, someone - I don't remember if it was the vet or the manager - said in an offhand way that "sometimes cats like that just get scared to death."

I would like to know what "scared [my cat] to death." It is my hypothesis that they gave him something to 'calm him down' for the grooming, and killed him either via overdose or because he wasn't supposed to have things like that. He had a recent (within 3-4 months) certificate of health from a vet, and as the person who took care of him, he had been his usual self even that morning. A lot of people sneer at me that they think it was just "something that happened" and that they didn't really kill him. But between his track record of good behavior / experiences at the groomer and recent bill of clean health, I truly believe that the grooming employees at the Bloomington, Indiana Pets Mart were directly responsible for my cat's sudden death, and I hope someday they are held accountable for it. I do not understand how they allowed an animal to go into that much distress, why they didn't call me immediately, and why they delayed speaking to me once I arrived at the store. Yes, there are always variables when working with animals, but

This was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I had no idea what to do and nothing was offered - no solutions, alternatives, explanations. The implication, particularly from the vet, was that . I said I would like to have him cremated, which I guess is a mistake, but I was trapped in that little room. My only alternative seemed to be to drive with my cat's dead body in my car to somewhere where someone might help me, and I had no idea where that was. I could not think rationally or objectively. I feel that the way the staff treated me was intended to get me to feel powerless, so they could cover up their handling of my cat. Not only was the most important being in my life killed, I was made into a spectacle.

My knees almost buckled as I walked out with the empty carrier. I wanted to scream at the people going into the groomers, Don't do it! They will kill you precious pet!

It wasn't until 8 hours later that the picture of him in his carrier showed up on my journal. It was strange and terrifying. Like a ghost.

This, though disjointed, is how I understand the aftermath of this incident:

The holidays are ruined for me forever.

I cannot look at pictures of my beautiful cat. I cannot talk about him or share memories or remember him. Nine years of happy memories were erased by one horrendous afternoon in a hateful big box store, holding his dead, cold body while idiots bullied me into making the wrong choices.

I cannot drive by one of those stores or see any of their commercials or ads without feeling sick to my stomach and lightheaded.

In ways I do not wish to discuss in detail here, this incident has severely impacted my ability to make a living or continue my studies.

This incident has never ended and never will. Yes, as many people have pointed out, I have other cats now - because I have a strong commitment to animal rescue (saving lives - a strange concept to Pets Mart, I am sure) - and felt that if anything positive could come out of this, it would be saving the lives of other cats. They are good cats, but I wish that my having them had not come about in this way.

I have no power; I am a poor graduate student who will likely be destitute forever. I half-expect the corporation to come in and shut my blog down over this.

Yes, I realize that losing people is much more terrible and injustices worse happen all the time. That's part of why I haven't posted this. But all I know is that this is the worst thing that has happened to me and nothing in my life has really been okay since. Every single day, I cannot shake the searing, crushing, totalizing guilt that if I had just gone to the OTHER big-box groomer - or even a better, smaller one - everything would have been different.

I cannot shake my discomfort with the fact that those people are just going on with their lives, and will never be held accountable for what they did to my cat, and to me.

Finally, I cannot stop wondering about whether he hurt, or was scared, or was angry at me. If his life ended with confusion and terror, if he thought I had abandoned him.

What do I want from Pets Mart?

Since I am assuming that they can't raise the dead, not that much. As far as I know they cremated him for free, and they even gave me a bottle of water when I was hyperventilating, eventually. Class acts! Free water and cremation with every pet they kill!

I would, however, like:

1. A written acknowledgment that this was their fault: not just my cat's death but the condescending, degrading way in which I was treated.

2. An assurance that the groomers who killed my cat that day are no longer working with animals or, god forbid, children.

3. An assurance that they are enacting more store-wide policies to better prevent such incidents from occurring. An acknowledgment that due to their handling of my situation, this horrible event became infinitely more traumatic than it had to be.

4. Paying for the treatment necessary for my ability to function after this incident would be nice, too. I do not want to discuss this in detail in this format.

5. A demonstration of empathy and compassion. The entire time i was there, I was treated much like a shoplifter or a nuisance.

What do I want from you?

1. Boycott Pets Mart. Avoiding one big box store is not that hard. Write them a letter why if you feel like it: Tell them that due to the incident on December 17, 2008, at the Bloomington, Indiana location, in which the groomers killed a customer's purebred cat, you will not be patronizing their store any more. If you feel like it, tell them that you strongly condemn the way they handled that situation

There are many local alternatives in many communities. If you must go to a big box store, PetCo seems to have a better record. If you don't live near anything, try If you live in Bloomington, T&T Feed and Seed is a wonderful pet supply store and I have heard great things about Delilah's.

2. Please share this story. The more the word is out, the bigger an impact this will have on their bottom line. Since they do not care about the reasons their customers come (i.e., the animals they love as family members), it is obviously important to hit them where it hurts, which is their profit line. This needs to be the public relations nightmare that it should be. Repost, link, retweet, tell your friends - please.

3. Just -- exercise and demonstrate compassion and kindness, to everyone, to all living things. So many people surprised me in terrible ways by saying insensitive, insulting, condescending, or even horrific things to me (up to and including the statement that they "hope[d] Einstein's death was slow and painful.")

If you are an attorney licensed to practice in Indiana, and would like to discuss this matter, please contact me. I would still like to believe there is justice and fairness in the world. I can be contacted at mirandom at gmail dot com and am willing to travel to discuss this matter.



Petition is here.

Reliving this was incredibly painful and upsetting for me. I hope if you read this, it wasn't quite as bad for you.

Thank you so very much if you read this.