As I bring our two cat carriers up from the basement in order for “The Buff Boys” to acclimate in anticipation of their impending visit to the Veterinarian, I can’t help but think back to the spring of 1976. That’s when an appointment to mend my male cat, Tillie, nearly went very wrong. To this day, the circumstances still haunt me.
Tillie had been a surprise birthday gift given to me in September of 1975, along with a puppy I named Gus (both named after a W.C. Fields’ movie entitled, “Tillie and Gus”). Tillie was an all-black domestic short hair. Gus was a German Shepard/St. Bernard mix. (He was beautiful. He had a white-ish beige coat, floppy ears and a curly tail.) Introduced to one another at six weeks old, Tillie and Gus were the best of friends/siblings. Though I made sure they spent their evenings inside, during the day, both were outside. (We had a fenced-in yard so Gus was confined. Tillie however, as you might imagine was not. He had the run of the neighborhood.)
Sure enough, one day, Tillie got into a cat fight. His tail had been bitten and was beginning to abscess. I knew I had to take him to the Veterinarian. However, I was in college and had very little money to spare. Nor did I have a credit card either. (Those were the days before credit card companies solicited college students.) In a financial bind, I called my parents and asked for money (I did work in the dining hall all through college but lived in a house off campus and had the usual room and board-type expenses). They sent me $25. (In my mind, I can still see the check.) In addition to whatever other money I could scrape together, I guess it was enough so I took Tillie to the “Vet.” for repair. He stayed overnight. The next day I got the call that he was ready for pick-up. That’s when the event occurred that has affected me/my animal-owning life going on four decades plus.
I went by myself. I had a car; a 1970 Ford Maverick, but no cat carrier. I was, apparently, planning on simply holding Tillie in my arms as I had done the day before. However, the pick-up was not nearly as uneventful as the drop-off. Once I got outside the building, Tillie began squirming (his tail had been shaved and had stitches where the abscess/bite had been inflicted) and broke free from my grasp. He ran off about 20 yards or so to the rear of this modest one-story building and stopped just shy of a chain-link fence which separated where we all were to another neighborhood – beyond my reach. My fear: had Tillie climbed over that fence somehow, he likely would have been gone forever.
Slowly I approached Tillie, repeatedly calling his name as quietly and reassuringly as I could, trying not to rattle, startle or scare him in any way; presuming post-surgery, in an unfamiliar place, possibly in pain, it might not take much from his father to cause him to scamper off and disappear. As I casually walked toward him, amazingly, Tillie sort of stood still, enough for me to scoop him up. Which I did and then carefully walked back to my car and drove us both home without any further adieu – except for the rest of my taking-cats-to-the-“Vet.” life.
And yes, that means now. And though I’m not stupid enough to transport cats without cat carriers anymore, I am only at ease once we’re back home and have let the cats out of their boxes and released them into the house (all our cats are indoor cats). Throughout this process, I must check the latches on their carriers a half-a-dozen times; in the house, in the car, in the parking lot outside the “Vet’s” office, in the waiting room, in the examining room and then again after wards; back in the waiting room while I pay, in the car on the way home and finally in the driveway as I prepare to carry the carriers/cats across the yard and into the house. Once inside with the cats/carriers in hand, finally I can relax. Home at last.
Forty-one years ago; it seems like yesterday, or maybe tomorrow if the “Vet.” can see us. And that’s what worries me. Been there and unfortunately, have done that.