Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Dandelions in a meadow outside Thunder Bay, ON

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thirty-Eight Ways to Say "Most Congenial"

Just when I had thought for a while that no one was reading this yarn, I saw with surprise "1 comment" under the last posting. To my shame I have not posted in - months? I had made a promise to myself, and almost weaseled out of keeping it. And apparently someone was reading. Thank you for the kind words, Elizabeth. You may be responsible for enabling another mediocre writer this world badly needs :-) But truly your comment brought me great joy.

I have worked at my new job for two weeks now. A few days before starting, I went through my vet school notes and the research articles I accumulated since school to separate those relevant to cats, and cats alone. Anything pertaining to other species was put in a separate pile as a potential contaminant to the rarefied atmosphere of specialty medicine which I was to breathe from now on. But I mentioned before that life is wiser than our best laid plans. In these past two weeks my feline patients have included two dogs. The first was a Jack Russell terrier whose owner is the senior veterinarian, herself a boarded surgeon. He was sent my way to have a small lump removed from his arm and to test my surgical skills. It was flattering to be trusted with him. The second was a Bichon Frise belonging to the bubbly young receptionist and suffering from bad teeth, a loose kneecap apt to pop out of its groove, and lower back pain. (She had bargained for only one problem - the back pain, - but was sold three, each of which will need attention.)

My other patients were, quite predictably, cats. Quiet and patient cats, loud and alarmed cats, healthy and ill cats. But no ugly or morally objectionable cats. I marvel at the skill of the hospital manager in handling what are surely unhandleable cats in anyone else's hands. A large powerful ginger male chased around his home by a toddler and taking these torments with maturity and magnanimity, turned into a wild sputtering animal lashing out through the mesh of his carrier as soon as he arrived at the hospital. As he stepped out of the carrier he was quickly and decisively scoop-embraced by Jim, using a thick folded towel. He shouted and howled at a volume that was harmful to hearing, especially for Jim who was bracing him with his entire upper body and head. Somehow, everything got done: the cat's teeth examined, his heart listened to, his tummy felt over for anything alarming, his temperature taken, and vaccines injected. The cat was rumbling with indignation, but not frantic. So far I have not once felt at a loss on this new job. I know that between all of us we will get things done, and done with the least stress to the animal.

At the end of my working week I drive home, 100 miles away, to rejoin my own two cats. (I rent a room close to the hospital so as not to commute that distance on workdays.) The cats have a new best friend - an automatic Le Bistro feeder that dumps a preset amount of kibble three times daily. They still greet me at the door, but are not frantic for their food. In fact, our relations are better than ever. When the cats start trumpeting in the morning, I know it is because they miss me and not because they need to be fed - the machine will have served breakfast by then. So my annoyance at not getting to sleep in is short-lived.

I have a rotten and thankless task to perform this coming Thursday. I must judge a photo contest. Pictures of cats submitted by their owners. I must decide which cat is the most congenial. But I will find a way out of this corner yet: there shall be as many categories as there are entries in the contest. This is when my long-forgotten linguistics training will be dusted off and put to good use.