My crazy cat is SO accident prone. If there’s a scrape to be in, he’s in it. This one particular week of January 2012, he got himself into a scrape significantly more expensive than his usual. It was Saturday morning, and just after breakfast, a large wad of matted fur fell off him and onto the floor. Grover had developed a dreadlock in his armpit earlier in the week; usually I remove them but this one was right against his skin and I couldn’t tell where fur ended and epidermis began. I decided to let it grow out, and then there it was, on that particular day, on the floor.
I lifted him up to see what had been underneath. He squealed as I brought him into my lap, which was different from his normal rag doll response to being held. What I saw in his little armpit made me gasp.
There was an incision – clean and straight, exactly an inch long. It went clear through his skin down to the muscle tissue, which could plainly be seen flexing and contracting as he tried to wiggle away. There was no blood, nor smell of infection. He hadn’t been acting like he was in pain all week…
I found an emergency vet, and upon examining his wound, the technicians whispered amongst themselves before interrogating me.
“Is he an indoor or outdoor cat?” – that’s always the first question.
“He’s both,” I reply.
“Ma’am, did you attempt to remove the clump of fur?”
“No. I wanted to, but I couldn’t tell where it stopped, so I didn’t even try.”
They looked at each other askance. The wound was too precise, had the appearance of being too man-made, to be a mere accident -- and that disturbed me as much as any of them. But I had no explanation.
“And how long has he been like this?”
“I just found the cut, just now! I brought him straight to you. He had a dreadlock there all week, but no blood, and no injury that I could see until the wad fell off. He didn’t even act like he was uncomfortable.”
She squinted at me. “Are you sure you didn’t try to remove the matted fur? Like, with scissors?”
“Positive. Didn’t even try.”
She shrugged, still unconvinced. They predicted he’d be done with his treatment by 10:30 that night.
“Wow, I can pick him up after then?”
“Yes ma’am, we’re open 24/7.”
I explained I was working late (aka playing a gig, but I didn’t want to mention the nature of my work to them after being under suspicion) and would be done by 2am in the next town over, so I’d likely be back at the vet by 2:30am.
“You can’t leave work early?” she asked.
“I’m sorry, no – if it were possible for me to pick him up before 8pm I could, but after that I’ll have to wait until I’m done with my job.”
She gave me a condescending, “Hmm.”
I was tensely waiting for her to ask me what I did for a living. I was thankful she didn’t, however, because I’m certain that wouldn’t have helped my case in their eyes. Not all pet owners treat their animals decently, unfortunately, so they were just being thorough. But I treat my animals like my babies, and why this baby had a slice in his abdominal cavity was beyond me, and was absolutely breaking my heart.
I left him in their hands.
Earlier that evening before the gig, there was a cast party for a musical in which I’d just had a principal role, and since the vet didn’t call me to say Grover was ready to come home, I decided to attend briefly before going to work.
On my way from the party to the gig, I heard something mechanical slip and get caught, underneath my hood. My trusty ’95 Saturn SL2 was finally telling me that 180k miles was enough already. I couldn’t accelerate with much force, and through my rear window, I could see a trail of white smoke etching the route I drove into the night sky.
From the front windows of the restaurant where my band was setting up, they could see my vehicle approach with an ever-growing plume of smoke. They walked outside to help me, and had me pop my hood.
Barry, our drummer, shook his head after inspecting. “It looks like your engine dropped a cylinder. I think your car totaled itself.”
I'd always known this day was coming, but I loved that car fiercely, as most people love the first car they ever buy. So somehow I’d have to get it home, and buy a new car, and be able to pay for it – this week. And somehow I’d have to pay Grover’s vet bill. I was at a juncture in my life where I was barely making $30k a year; on a good night of gigging, I was getting only $100 – like I was on that particular night.
No time to waste spiraling into anxiety, however – there was only time to put on a smile and go rock a crowd! Or in this case, a small restaurant full of people. Thankfully that night I was working with my favorite band – great music, originals and covers, tight musicians, professional and positive attitudes, no drama, and they all loved me like their daughter. Or maybe their really hot niece. Yes, I was stressed, but I knew those men would bend heaven and Earth to make sure I got home safely, and it helped me get through the night.
When on break between sets, I saw I had a voicemail waiting from the vet. I called them back – apparently there had been a shift change, and the ladies I’d spoken to earlier didn’t tell the people currently on the clock that I could only come after work ended. I called them back, explained everything, and told them that my car had died on my way to work, so someone was going to have to give me a ride, and that was going to make me even later than anticipated.
The gig continued, and the crowd thinned out as people finished their dinners. Our singer/songwriter/guitarist Conner had volunteered to help me, but he had obligations with guests that attended the event, so we couldn’t leave right away.
We struck our stage gear, and began the trudge home. We had a good 20 miles to go, and I couldn’t get my car to go over 40mph. The column of smoke began puffing from my exhaust pipe again, and no doubt Conner was suffocating as he followed a few yards behind with his flashers on. We parked it on the road by my house, then I hopped in for a ride to the vet.
En route, I got another phone call from them, this time very urgent and angry: “Ma’am, are you coming to pick up your cat?”
“Yes, I’m on my way…” – and I explained the whole thing again.
Neither did she care, nor believe me. But once we arrived, she could see my story checked out. I was dressed up, arriving in a truck driven by someone else, coughing from the smoke my broken down car had emitted.
They were watching Grover’s body language as I approached him – animals act fearful of people that abuse them, and as I’d worked in animal rescue before, I knew this is what the staff was looking for. But Grover, dressed like the Pixar lamp in his cone of shame, was happy to see me, and anxious to get out of there.
Such a strange life I lead – with such a bizarre schedule entirely counter-intuitive to the rest of the human race. People are frequently skeptical and infrequently respectful of my job and the requirements it entails. Maybe if I’d told them what it was I did for work, they would've understood my constraints; but maybe they’d view it as more of ‘recreation’ than a ‘job’ and held it as evidence against me that I wouldn't reprioritize. Who knows if I worked the situation correctly, but at least my small son was on the mend got to come back home with me that night.