Monday, September 9, 2013

Tied up in knots

The car blares down the road, the muffler only half doing its job and I am glad to be surrounded by mostly trees interspersed with the odd house, but I’m sure the people in the valley below can hear me coming. Metal on metal clanks and bangs, the door rattles on its hinges as the car jerks from cracks in the worn out pavement to potholes and then slams over a section of washboard. There is not much bounce left in the suspension, I can hear every bolt rattle and bang, imagine them all working loose with each jolt; it feels like the car is coming to pieces around me.

Up a hill and then down again and around the corner and the land opens up as I descend into the Slate River Valley, where fields are laid out in yellows and greens and neatly cut rows of hay. It is all hemmed in by the curve of the mountain range, purplish in the distance where it meets the lake. To my left the sky is a solid metal grey, the clouds in large hued layers like gently rolling waves. I can see a curtain of rain in the distance where the sky melds perfectly into the landscape.

I wonder if it is headed my way and then hope that it is because that is the sort of day it feels like. Chestnut agrees, meowing angrily from the back seat where he is crammed into a cat carrier that is two sizes too small.

We pass a field of cows and then a large machine with menacing knives at the end of an extended metal arm shearing back brush in the ditches along the side of the road.

“We’re almost there,” I say to Chestnut as I turn onto the dirt road that leads to the vet clinic and throw a quick glance over my shoulder to see his face pushed up against the bars of his cage, his eyes wide and black. “I’m so sorry.”

Over the last five years Chestnut has had at least four urinary tract infections and it is always so crushingly disappointing when it happens again. After his first bout with it when he was not quite two years old and he had to be hospitalized with a urinary catheter, he has had almost zero privacy. His trips to the litter box are frequently monitored and that morning as I peered in the little door of the covered box after I noticed his tail had been sticking out the opening for an inordinate amount of time, I could see there was a problem.

I trudged up the stairs to the bedroom and exhaled loudly as I flopped on to the bed beside Morgan, who was just waking up. “Chestnut is having a urinary issue,” I said.

“Okay,” came his flat reply from amongst the covers. What more could be said, we both knew what would come next. “I’ll call the vet,” he said.

Three hours later I pull up to the little house that is our vet clinic on a farm nestled at the foot of a mountain. I haul the carrier out of the car and lug it to the door. Chestnut, we discover, is almost twice the weight he should be.

I am expecting an exam, a prescription of medication and food, a request for a urine sample and then home again. Chestnut circles the examination room anxiously as we wait for the vet. “It’s okay,” I say to him. “I’m not leaving you here.”

But that is a lie. They recommend he stay so they can give him fluids via IV, collect a urine sample. They are concerned, they tell me, that he may already be blocked. I can take him home, but I may have to make an emergency after hours trip. So I leave him there. Apologize profusely, and walk outside into the quickly clearing day.

The car chugs back up the mountain towards home. I pass the brush-clearing machine again, the field of cows, the endless trees, but I am distracted. I am thinking about the impending struggle of administering medication, the never-ending battle to find a urinary health specific food that he will actually eat and the possibility of catheterization, and did they mention surgery? What would that cost I wonder, I’m pretty sure we can’t afford surgery. So, what then? Is it possible Chestnut may never come home again?

That night as I get in to bed I pause, look up to the ceiling and say, “Bear, if you’re out there somewhere, could you please make sure Chestnut pees some time tonight?” I am not prepared to make a snap decision if things go badly. Sleep is fleeting.

In the morning I wait by the phone, jump on it when it rings. “Yay!” I say when they tell me they got a sample from him in the night and he can go home. It is Saturday morning so Morgan and I both head down the mountain to the clinic, we discuss how crazy it was to have so much anxiety wrapped up in waiting for our cat to pee.

Chestnut meows angrily on the way home and sticks his paws through the bars. In my bag there are pills and some cans of food, and there’s a bag of kibble in the back, all of which will cause great stress over the next while.

At home I discover he has peed a small flood in his carrier. His back end is soaked, his tail skinny like a rat’s. He tracks great puddles across the floor and I mop up behind him, towel him off. But I can’t help being relieved, and a little happy about it, even though the house smells like pee for the rest of the afternoon.

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