Looking for lessons from vet’s tragic death


Correction appended.

The February suicide of Dr. Shirley Koshi, who had a veterinary practice on Johnson Avenue, left many people in Riverdale and beyond wondering how a dispute between a small business owner like her and a dissatisfied cat rescuer apparently could have gone so wrong.

On Sunday, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale (HIR) hosted about two dozen people to both honor Dr. Koshi’s memory and seek ways to prevent a tragedy like Dr. Koshi’s death from happening again.

“We want to come together to take steps to build a healthier and more supportive and more communal Riverdale,” said Rabbi Ari Hart, who led the event.

“I think us being here is a way of saying, Dr. Koshi, you are valued, more than you maybe even knew,” he continued. “You are valued by more people than you think.”

The evening began with audience members sharing their memories of Dr. Koshi — as well as their reactions to her suicide, which followed weeks of heated wrangling over the ownership of a cat, including a November protest outside Dr. Koshi’s practice.

Riverdale resident Cindy Morales described how Dr. Koshi fought to save her 15-year-old cat’s life even though the pet owner initially thought it might be time to euthanize him.

“She went above and beyond,” Ms. Morales said of the veterinarian. “She was such a wonderful person. She touched my life and my son’s life.” 

Ms. Morales added that her cat is alive today thanks to Dr. Koshi’s efforts.

Riverdale resident Betsy Lampl recounted similar experiences with the veterinarian, who opened her practice in July 2013.

Ms. Lampl told attendees gathered in a circle of chairs at HIR that after informing Dr. Koshi that her cat was too feral to be taken to an office, the veterinarian agreed to make a home visit. But the cat owner said Dr. Koshi’s mid-February suicide came before the visit.

“It seemed to me that each side was so strong… there was no room for compromise,” Ms. Lampl said of the dispute between Dr. Koshi and cat rescuer Gwen Jurmark.

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