Last week, I drove my 17-year-old cat to the vet, who happens to be an old friend from college. I really trust him.
My cat has been declining and it was time to get him checked. I really live this furry old guy. We've been through a lot together: a miscarriage, the deaths of both my in-laws, the births of my daughters, the loss of our first cat, stressful situations in which he taught me to relax just by sitting beside me and letting me stroke him, eliciting his lovable purr. I also know he's a healer and has offered himself to help me. I imagine if he were human he'd wear a bow tie and wire-rimmed glasses.
I first noticed him in our yard with a look-alike. They'd romp and play ... at a distance. As winter set in, they sat rump to rump like bookends on the wicker love seat on my front porch. Then one day, he looked at me through the glass door as pathetically as you can imagine. I fed him and the rest is history. I never did find out what happened to his sibling.
He never has liked the trip to the vet and it's always such a fight to get him in the cat carrier and I figured neither one of us had the strength to engage in that battle this time. So I bought a harness and leash, gently set him in a small laundry basket with towels, placed him on the front seat and attached the leash to the door. He snarled his low, angry growl the entire time, pacing and jumping from front to back, hiding in the wells of the inside of the car. A time or two, he placed his head on my lap. It was not an easy drive, particularly since the vet is downtown Cincinnati and it was raining. I paid special attention to the Columbia-Tusculum curve on Route 50, not wishing to wipe out. Fortunately, he never urinated as I had expected.
He was a mess waiting to be examined and through the check-up: heart pounding, spit frothing at the base of his lips. So was I, praying this trip would not end like the last, when I had to leave our female cat overnight for tests and she expired there. I was under strict orders from my girls to bring him home "no matter what."
Well, my crusty friend rolls in, greets me as a long-lost friend, but also wheels directly to my cat. Because he lives and works from a chair, my friend seems to be able to psychologically "lower" (I don't mean that as a slight; animals often get a lot more than we do) himself to the level of the animals for whom he cares. He talks to them the whole time, as well as answering any questions I may have. Animal or human, no difference.
He starts by opening the cat's mouth and announcing it's pretty nasty in there. I chime in that between kids and parents who have been somewhat ailing, I don't have time to brush the cat's teeth. He chuckles and moves on. After the exam and my meticulous litany of symptoms, he announces a diagnosis. "I'll check with a blood test, but I think he has hyper-throidism, which is easy to treat and, really, he's in amazing shape for a cat this old."
Just what I wanted to hear! I tell him this cat gets a lot of loving attention and in some way, he acknowledges that may be why this cat is in such good shape.
While we await the blood-test results, he offers to show off his new clinic. "It's 11:30 ... not too early for a brewski, we can have one while we wait." It's an offer I can't refuse and reminds me of the time in my life when I really knew this guy ... back in college. "Just one, I have to drive the cat back home." So we re-bond over a beer in the surgery room and I tease my friend that he reminds me of House, the snarky, not-so-nice genius doc on the tv series. "I'm not that mean," he insists with the intonation of it being a question. "No, you're not" I agree.
When he reads the test results, he shouts "Bingo, hyperthyroid and NOTHING else." I am so relieved and in my giddyness snap back: "See, you are like House, making the right guess!
The only ramification is the cat and I must figure out how to get the daily pill down without a tussle. NO big deal, really. And the ride home from the vet was much smoother. Perhaps the car seemed like a picnic compared to the clinic and the cat perched himself on the back seat and remained there the entire trip home.
He and I bonded more deeply over this trip. And I am breathing a sigh of relief and gratitude that this friend, this companion, will be in our lives awhile longer. And also for the reconnection with my crusty college buddy.
• What relationships do I have with animals?
• How has that made a difference in my life?
• What type of reciprocity is there?
• When was the last time I connected with an old friend?
• Do I express gratitude for the friends -- of all kinds -- in my life?
furry guy and I
go way back
the third cat
beyond the first cat
a lot together
when I asked
this cat would
take my pain
he simply says:
"Because he loves you."
And, I him.
* We did not intend to keep our first stray cat, so we gave her a generic, don't-het-attached name: Girl Kitty. She and the name stuck and when the male joined us, my young niece dubbed him "Him Kitty."