Thursday, September 02, 2004

Lying Down, pt. 2

My uncle’s cat, Buddy, was a supermodel among cats. Buddy had unusually long legs, enormous green eyes, and a sleek, white coat. But what made Buddy really gorgeous was his personality. If a cat can have charisma, Buddy had it. In the short time that he lived with us, everyone in the family fell under his lover’s spell.

Buddy had been a Boston cat until my Uncle Davy moved to Pennsylvania. Davy had come back home to help out with my grandfather, a man who loved cats, but who also was tipping into senility. Buddy must have been baffled the day my grandfather put him outside, because Buddy had only ever known the wide world from the windowsill of his Cambridge flat.

It was my mother who recovered Buddy, trotting along the banks of a local creek. He’d turned up as cheerful as ever, but sporting a nasty gash on one shoulder. We all fussed over his injury and then my mother carted him off to her longtime vet. Dr. Mickels pronounced Buddy charming, but frowned when he learned the story of his injury. “And what is the status of this cat’s shots?” he wanted to know. My mother didn’t have the answer, but said she was certain her brother would have kept the shots up to date.

In fact, in the chaos of his move, Davy had let Buddy’s rabies vaccination lapse. By six days.

Dr. Mickels looked sick. “I wish you’d never brought this cat to me,” he told my mother. “Now I’m going to have to call him in to Animal Control.”

Buddy’s first misfortune was having made contact with a possibly wild animal. His second was having made contact with PA’s unforgiving rabies laws.

Dr. Mickels’ verdict: Everyone in the family would have to submit to a painful course of abdominal shots. That is, we’d have the shots unless Buddy could be proved to be rabies-free.

There was just one catch. Buddy’s “innocence” could only be proved by examining his brain. And his brain could only be examined by taking off his head.

Horrified, my mother offered up her family's bellies for the shots. She offered to track and capture all the raccoons near my grandfather’s house, so they could be tested for the virus. While Dr. Mickels made his calls, she fantasized about grabbing Buddy and running back to her car.

To this day, she says ruefully that that is what she should have done.

Buddy was confiscated and destroyed by the state of Pennsylvania. And, perversely though we hoped for them, we never did need those human rabies shots.

G’s vet records were not yet filed. Because his vaccination appointment had coincided with the arrival of houseguests, I’d stashed the paperwork in a giant box, along with all the other piles of paper from my office floor. Now I ripped through the box, teary at recollections of Buddy and at the prospect of G. in peril. For several agonizing minutes, G’s records didn’t present themselves. And then, at last, they did.

I walked slowly downstairs, records in hand. Adam was trying to soothe G., who was growing restless in the carrier.

“For future reference, A, you could have told me a tiny lie. Just a tiny lie of 'I’m sure they gave the shot, but let’s double check' would have been fine in this case.”

“So G.’s covered for rabies?


“I’m so glad, because, honey — he’s starting to bleed.”


At 8:25 AM, Blogger New Kid on the Hallway said...

Auggggh! I feel like a 19th-c reader of Dickens waiting to hear what happened to Little Dorrit or whoever the heck it was. Poor Buddy...I would have just been sick. Poor G.! So glad he was covered! (excuse all the exclamation points, I lose any perspective when kitties are involved....)

At 12:48 PM, Blogger obstreperous_girl said...

oh god, i am going start bawling in a second (having three cats of my own).

and..and..and? what happened next?

At 2:40 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

I'm with NK and FW: a cat in peril brings tears to my eye immediately. (I like many dogs, and certainly I wouldn't want to see one imperiled, but I don't have the same immediate connection to any and all members of the species.) My prayers are with G. and with you and A.

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Mel said...

Oh, I'm so sad about Buddy. And glad that G had his shot (and that you don't have to be mad at Adam -- reading your story is good reminder to myself as to why I'm the one who always does the vet visits). But will you please tell us how it all worked out?

At 12:50 AM, Blogger abd 2004 said...

You spin a mean story...
We're all on tenderhooks!

All long-time cat lovers have horror stories of loss & heartbreak, yet we are all ready to embrace that risk again & a gain for a velvety nosepad & pointy ears. That is the beauty of catness.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger PowerProf said...

The horror - I have a few well-loved cats in my past whose stories make me tearful whenever I think of them, but yours is truly heart breaking. The joy that these little creatures bring us make the pain worth it, though it might not seem so at times.


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