My mom used to pack a few fun-sized Milky Ways in our lunchboxes on test days. You know, “for energy?” The idea of treats accompanying challenges started a long time ago in my family, and seems I’ve perpetuated the tradition. Today I needed a similar salve, for reasons detailed below and having left the house quickly this morning with nothing but a cup of coffee and slice of pear in my belly.
The larger of our two cats, Bo, had been scooting across the rug for weeks, and if you’ve ever owned cats, you’d know this as a sign of clogged anal glands and time to schedule an anal sac expression. It’s an awful visual, I know, but how do you think the poor techs feel who get to drain these squirming felines out their back end? A love bug at home, at the vet Bo is a member of the “Possible Caution” patient group, since crossing the threshold, he morphs into a monster, with fangs and bad breath to boot.
Bo is a member of the “Possible Caution” patient group
Preparation for today’s appointment was a series of steps. You can opt for twilight sedation during the procedure which costs more and leaves your cat pissy and groggy much of the day, or you can take the edge off his anxiety with a few strategically timed Gabapentin pills, the night before and morning of. I took the latter route and last night after dinner started crushing a few pills into wet dog food, Bo’s favorite. In retrospect I should have pulled his dry food and left him hungrier so he would have finished the pea sized meatballs I’d made. Once he tired of the dog food, I rolled bits of cheddar around the Gabapentin dust, making little balls which I hoped would also tempt him. Bo found this impressive energy for an atypical après dinner snack suspect and left the room, likely already full from the dog food he’d inhaled. We added in a little turkey to the mix thinking over the course of the night he could nibble on this extravagant smorgasbord and by morning, transform into a floppy ragdoll, ready for his final two chill pills and a successful sac expression.
For ingesting his breakfast pills, I had the bright idea to tear open a pouch of solid white tuna, which I typically reserve for my tuna fish sandwiches. I twisted the two remaining Gabapentin capsules on a plate and cut their dust into ¾ tsp of tuna. A little tuna juice for binding and you’ve got yourself quite a breakfast, with a nice slice of calm on the side. As I had pulled Bo’s food during the night, he awoke hungry and lapped up every bit of the tuna and juice. At sixteen pounds, Bo can pack in a lot, and feeling sorry for him with the upcoming anal attention, I brought his kibble back out and he continued with the eating.
Bo can pack in a lot
When it was time to leave, Bo was that very ragdoll I envisioned, and it was a cinch to lower him into his vinyl mesh carrying case. I think he must have slept the nearly entire 6.5 miles there, drifting in and out of catnip dreams as my Spotify Christmas playlist hummed along. With ¾ of a mile left to go and in the exact same location on Amsterdam Avenue where my previous cats have also decided to call it quits, Bo let out a loud grown or two and then vomited up an impressive pile. He had the wherewithal to step back from the shocking regurgitation mound and I pulled over quickly figuring out a plan. Obviously, there was a mess in his carrier to clean, but at least it was contained on the fleece pad liner which I could easily pull out. With my trusty roll of paper towels I always keep in my car (and which I instruct my husband and sons to also always keep), I formed a wad to both blot and slide the mess to the outer edge of the mat, all the while trying to keep this slowly but steadily waking lion from climbing out of his cage. It was too much to clean parked on the side of the road and approaching our appointment time, so I zipped the carrier closed and finished the drive.
Once at the vet, I called them to alert them to my situation, being that there was a pile of vomit, a crazy cat beginning to wake up and they’d best come quickly to the passenger door and grab him if we’re to pull off this scheme. Meanwhile, I continued to try and clean the mess, soon realizing the cat needed to come out of the carrier. I pulled him out and by some miracle, his fur was vomit-free (cats are remarkably clean creatures) and he snuggled in my lap settling in and resuming his nap. Some fourteen minutes later a tech emerged at my driver’s side window, and despite the detailed instructions I already gave, I had to lower my window letting in gushing cold air and retell the story trying my best to speak in a whisper (waking cat, remember?) and instruct them on what to do: walk over to the passenger side, lift the soiled mat out of the carrier so I can lower Bo in it and run like hell inside and get moving on his butt procedure. At this point, Bo is awake and coming out of that sleepy sweet mode, lifting his strong curious periscope head with a “What? Who is this? Where are we?” alert mode I know all too well. I released Bo to them, and they came back out three minutes later – still carrying him in his carrier – to find me scraping cat vomit from his fleece liner and into their outside trash can, to ask what time he last had his Gabapentin. I quickly answered, “8:15am,” and satisfied, they turned around and headed in, leaving me to continue with my cleanup.
I felt encouraged as I waited some 15 minutes in the parking lot, busying myself with my Spotify Christmas playlist, alternating songs and marveling at my great memory of Henry Mancini childhood carols and nice variety of current favorites to mix in. I then noticed the vet tech walking toward my car, and I’m feeling good about it all. I’d done the tough work, gotten all the sleepy pill dust in this crazy cat and the vet did their job, the routine expression of yet another cat’s bile. With a new lighter load, we’d head back home together joyfully noticing holiday lights along the way.
Instead, all I got was “It was a no go,” the tech shaking her head at my optimistic naivete and handing over the carrier, lopsided from the 16lb orange bundle cowered in one corner. I couldn’t just drive off defeated so instead I pleaded, “Can’t you then just drug him and get it done? Can I come inside to the back and hold him for you while you do it?” She half-heartedly said she’d go check with the doctor. Another ten minutes in the car, trying not to look Bo in the eyes because Mommy at this point, was livid, and the phone rang, the tech’s voice returning an, “I’m sorry I talked to the doctor and you can’t come back, no one can unless they’re saying goodbye to their pets (don’t tempt me). The doctor will call you and discuss next steps.”
At this point it’s well after 11am and I’m not going to just drive home defeated. I needed something for all my efforts – multiple unsuccessful attempts at pilling a large stubborn pet, swirling wet dogfood into bb sized balls, the interminable wait for the water to turn hot so said dogfood smell, after intense scrubbing with soap, can leave my skin, the tearing of beautiful Tillamook cheddar into bits for rolling into Gabapentin dust, the morning’s pre coffee tuna juice wafting over the kitchen, the victory of the tuna disappearing into the cat’s belly and the confidence I had pulled it off. The smooth roller coaster ride followed by bottoming out in ill-fated vomit, from which we would never recover.
What I needed was a Starbucks cheddar ham egg bite and a short flat white with one raw sugar stirred in. Intent on avoiding the Ansley Mall Starbucks which hasn’t a drive through, I began yelling into the air, “Starbucks near here!” and then found myself understandably pissed that no one’s answered me. A few more times, and still nothing, and it dawns on me that Siri’s requisite “Hey Siri” salutation had not occurred, and therefore she wasn’t going to do squat. I then greeted her appropriately and she obliged. We found another Starbucks a mile away. The map showed a few crazy hairpin turns and if one were a map reader, they would simply understand to turn around on Piedmont and proceed in the opposite direction. However, if one is map challenged, that person might make a slew of wrong turns only to aggravate Siri who is trying her damnedest to stay level-headed. Finally, as if mocking me like some mirage across the dessert, a Starbucks shop appeared on my right and I followed its signs to cue up in the drive-through. Big orange on my right at this point is realizing he is trapped and is determined to throw his weight around in hopes of breaking free. I, meanwhile, have placed my order and am beyond excited to now have it in hand. The cheddar bacon egg bites, their virtues long ago extolled in a magazine interview by Hoda Kotb which turned me onto them, are nothing short of sublime. And my Turkish friend introduced me to my now favorite coffee there, a flat white. I ordered the smallest, an 8oz short, with a packet of raw sugar (a treat I reserve for coffee out). I pulled out of the parking lot and into a neighborhood to park and enjoy it all. Bo lifted his nostrils smelling the lusciousness overtaking the car, but I ignored him, turned up my Christmas carols and savored every morsel and drop. I still haven’t heard from the doctor, but I know it’s going to be a good day.