Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Doctor Do Little.

Oh, where to begin.

Does this story begin on Thursday, when I took the dog in for what I thought was his regular allergy shot because he was scratching his ears repeatedly and driving us all nuts, only to find out that he had a hot spot under his fur next to his ear which required shaving half his head and a ten-day supply of antibiotics and yet still no allergy shot because he couldn’t have that on top of the antibiotics and the hot spot? Does the story begin with a stinky dog-head and repeated applications of ointment? Shouldn’t all stories begin with the word ointment?

Or maybe the story began on Thursday when the neighbor who found our dog found another puppy trotting around on a busy street near downtown and brought him home for the purpose of finding him a new home. She never asked anything of me but a spare leash and a little dry food, yet I took it upon myself to drive him to the vet on Friday morning for a worming pill. Yes, perhaps the story begins on Friday morning when a very small puppy vomited more than his entire body mass all over the back seat of my car.

Then again, it probably started on Friday afternoon when I had a family come over to meet the dog, and while we were all walking his silly puppiness around the block I got a call from the cat-rescue group where Daughter and I volunteer. Did I remember offering to take kittens this kitten-season? Did I happen to recall that someone was trying to capture a pregnant feral cat which lived in a nearby alley? Was I pleased to learn that she’d been captured and was looking for someplace quiet to finish out her confinement and spend the first few weeks of her kitten’s lives? The rescue-dog went off with the family, mutual love zooming around freely, and I went to clean out the garage or, as I like to think of it, The Cummings Home for Wayward Felines.

No. Let us stipulate that all these situations existed before Saturday and that the story itself begins on Saturday. It begins very early Saturday, in fact. Before dawn, I awakened to the sounds of great physical activity in my laundry room. Staggering out, I found Lupac shrieking and pouncing on something extremely tiny and clearly too young to have gotten the memo about our cat's killing prowess. When I arrived on scene, we weren’t yet in the killing phase but merely the “batting and shrieking” phase, which meant I got to spend a soul-searching twenty minutes determining if the baby mouse was actually dead or just terrified into paralysis. This involved leaning in to try to put a mirror under its nose to see if there was breathing and repeatedly sending Notorious C.A.T. out the room. Finally I decided the micro-mouse wasn’t actually dead, though I wouldn’t have suggested it buy extra-large jars of mayonnaise. I gently shuffled it outdoors, under a plant. The dog watched all of this from his crate and was rewarded with a morning dose of antibiotic shoved down his throat. Having communed with all the animals currently in the house, I went back to bed and got another hour of sleep.

At ten, I picked up the rescue cat, which is lovely, very pregnant and very, very frightened. The people who brought her to the shelter want to adopt her after the whole kitten business is over, and I commend them for that. They claim she’s very sweet and I have no reason to argue with them. Then again, she is also feral, knocked-up and frightened and I was in no hurry to experience the first cat bite of my life so I planned to treat her like unexploded ordinance. A cat’s mouth is incredibly toxic, filled with pathogens that certain rogue nations only dream of possessing. Before antibiotics, a cat-bite could easily kill you. Even now, you still have to go directly to the ER and hope the first round of antibiotics works because the second course of treatment involves an IV. I installed the cat in the cage, taking care not to touch her, and headed off to my mother’s house to finish my pet-tasks for the day.

My mother’s cat has delicate kidneys and needs an IV-line of saline twice a week. My mother's neighbor, a registered nurse, has helped my mother insert the line, which is a very nice thing for a neighbor to do. This weekend, however, the neighbor was out of town and my mom asked me to help. I was happy to do so, what with this being my mom and her cat having been my cat about fifteen years ago. Also, I'd done this before. For anyone who ever Googles the phrase “Rehydrating a cat” or “Inserting IV into cat,” I am here to tell you it’s pretty easy. The cat is lying down. You come up behind her, grab the loose skin between her shoulder blades and gently pull upwards. It creates a tent, with a little divot in the middle. You insert the needle into the divot. Your greatest concern is to not come out the other side of the skin-tent and poke yourself. The cat might complain when the needle goes in but settles down pretty quickly. A vet told my mom the actual rehydration relaxes them, which means your only job after the needle goes in is to watch the bag and make sure you’ve dosed enough saline. Bing, bang, massage the fluid around a little bit, you’re done.

Except my mother’s cat did not agree to this being a mildly-unpleasant-but-on-the-whole-positive experience. Normally a wonderful amiable companion, my mother’s cat shrieked like a harpy when the needle went in, and then shrieked louder. My mother held her more firmly and I looked up at the bag for a second, to make sure it was draining correctly. In the second I looked up, the cat shook out the needle, which now started splashing saline solution around the room like a fountain at the Bellagio Hotel. I grabbed the needle and grabbed the skin on her neck to tent-and-poke again but my hands were slippery from saline. In the chaos the cat took this opportunity to bite me. For several wondrous seconds I attempted to close the tube so it would stop spraying water everywhere while simultaneously enjoying the sensation of a small, elderly yet remarkably stubborn cat’s jaws clamped around my finger. My mother was holding her down and prying her away from the other side. Between the two of us, we managed to dislodge my violated digit. I stared at my middle finger in disbelief. There was a serious dent in the skin, but the skin wasn’t broken. "Yes!" I hooted. “No blood! No blood, no pathogens, no trip to the ER for me! Dodged that bullet!”

And then, slowly but unmistakeably, drops of blood starting leaking from my finger, first from the dent and then from two little spots on the opposite side. I had been bitten by a cat, and I needed antibiotics right away.

Next time: The Resolution. I’ll tell you that everything works out alright, but I can’t finish this story today because my finger refuses to type another lette


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are nothing less than a Saint.

A very, very funny Saint.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course there had to be blood., of course.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

2:55 PM  
Blogger Mindy said...

Yes, definitely a saint except you are alive. So, not really a saint but a very good person.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is that saying again: No set of three or four good deeds goes unpunished? I look forward to the conclusion and hope that no one else bites you.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Joy! said...

I like how the story worked backwards but cumulatively. I had no idea that one should go to the ER for cat bites.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Ouch - no good deed goes unpunished

4:16 PM  
Blogger Char said...

oh yes, the mouse prize and the bites - the joys of owning cats.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent my birthday last year at my doctor's office, being dosed with antibiotics, refusing to answer the question, "How did you get bitten by your OWN cat?"

I often wonder why we let predators live in our house.

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your goodness shames me.

I looked back on my weekend hoping to find some kind of similar good deed to relate but I got nothin.

6:52 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ouch, indeed! Thanks for biting the bullet and bringing us up to speed on the situation despite your war wounds. You're a wondrously good-hearted person.

7:01 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Two trips to the ER for me after being bitten (six puncture wounds) and scratched by my 15-year-old she-devil, I mean cat, after coming between her and another cat. Two rounds of IV antibiotics and many scars and hospital bills later, amazingly she still lives and sleeps by my head every night. This happened last fall.

Ironically, a year earlier there was another trip to the ER when I rescued another cat of mine from a very large German Shepherd. Unbelievably, the cat survived with only a broken pelvis and I have scars on both my arms. The things we do out of love for animals.

3:33 AM  
Blogger Susan said...

If you would like, you can read about my adventure here:


3:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm fairly certain that after reliving both the excitement and horror of all this that you hopefully crawled back into bed...

9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The unexploded ornance and rogue nations references were hilarious.

Did you write this from the emergency room? I simultaneously laughed and cringed -- cat bites AND scratches horrify me. Early trials with my own feral kitty involved much neosporin (for scratches). It would generally take 24 hours for the swelling to go down. I've never had a bite penetrate the skin though, luckily -- I think they're much worse.

9:14 AM  
Blogger LP said...

Quinn's Blog: better used as a mirror or microscope? Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harpy

Clever at every turn, you are.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

Oh, wow. I commend you on your work for animals. :) I am sorry that you ended up in the pain from the situation you so carefully avoided. :(

I hope your finger is 100 percent better this week!

I send you prayers and positive energy!

7:08 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I love how you ended this entry. Very well done.

I've only been bit by a neighbor's scotty dog when I was very young and didn't tell my parents and of course the small bite turned into a nightmare. I hope your finger, the middle one you say, is up and typing. Okay maybe not up. I don't know where I'm going with this. I can't wait for the rest of the story. Pamela

7:12 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

Wait, WHAT? WHAT??? Cat bites are that toxic?? Wait. Why did I never get that memo?!

This is not a rhetorical question. I spent thirty years doing feline rescue on a massive, MASSIVE (i.e., private-but-expensive) scale; I have personally placed over a hundred adult cats, and countless kittens. My vet, who is a saint, knows me better and longer than almost anyone else in this city. I have manhandled the cats, and the cats have cathandled me. Never once did I get this Truly Interesting and Exciting Piece of Information, which I would like to have had a little earlier, actually, since I have the immune system of a petri dish.

I seldom had to go looking, either: pregnant cats whom I had never seen before would run into my house when I had the door open to wrestle groceries inside. The cranky welfare cat from next door (her feet hurt) tried to have her kittens in my lap. Upstairs was the Maternity Ward; the basement was apparently the Hospice, because on more than one occasion, some poor feline soul would crawl in there to die. Ugh.

All this, and I Did Not Know about cats' mouths.

In retrospect ... I kind of wish I had.

7:29 AM  

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