Friday, November 7, 2008


Today Abbey had an appointment--her first--at the veterinarian. There are a lot of vets in town, so when it came time for me to pick one, I picked one based on location. I picked the one closest to school.

I picked poorly.

Let me put this into perspective. There's a scene in Dirty Dancing, right after Penny, who's been knocked up by that creepy waiter, has come back from having an abortion, and she's sick, she's cramping, she's moaning. The guy who'd gone with her to the appointment grabs Johnny and says, "He had a folding table and a dirty knife!" It was not what you'd call a professional atmosphere.

The room I walked into today reminded me a little of what I imagine that whole setting had been for poor skinny, knocked-up Penny. There was a stainless steel table that didn't look all that clean, an old fridge humming in the corner, a glass container full of needles, a few cotton balls scattered underneath a bench near the wall. There were rubber hoses and machines that were broadcasting temperatures and numbers and seemed vague of purpose, old.

Now, it's true that I don't have a lot of experience with vets, mostly because my last cat, Dusty, was a tough indoor-outdoor cat, and we only took her in on the rare occasion that she got herself into some tough scrape--that time she got an infection in her foot and it swelled up to three times its size (I traced its shape and girth onto a blank piece of paper before we left the house so we wouldn't forget how gross it had been) or that time she got in a fight with something much bigger than she was, and it almost tore out her eye. But what I do remember about those trips to the vet is this: crispness, whiteness, lab coats, bustling waiting rooms filled with kenneled or leashed animals.

This particular vet's office was attached to his house, and no one else was there. When I arrived, the lights were off, and I had to ring a doorbell before entering. And then I stood waiting near the reception area until an old man eased a door open and stepped inside.

He didn't say anything, so I did.

"Hi," I said. "I had an appointment for one o'clock."

"Ahhh you Samanthaaah?" he asked, his voice thick with Maine accent.

"No," I said. "I'm Jessica."

He looked confused. "Whahht ahhh you heahh for?" he asked.

"Shots," I said. "Shots for my kitten."

"Whahht?" he said.

"Shots for my kitten," I repeated.

"Ahm hahhd of heahhing," he said. "Whahht ahhh you heahh for?"




"Ahh kitty?"


He nodded, finally understanding what I was there for. He told me to go around the corner so we could get down to business, and I did. I don't know what I expected to see, what I expected to happen. I guess I expected to see a crisp white room, a crisp white jacket he could shrug into. I guess I expected him to prepare himself--wash his hands, check a chart, give Abbey a look-see--before he shot her up with shots for distemper, rabies, and leukemia, but he didn't. He just asked me to put her on the table, and then he turned to rummage in the fridge--the type you'd see in a dorm room--for the appropriate vials.

I was two seconds from picking up the cat carrier and dashing out the door. The only reason I stayed was because I was busy trying to make psychic deals with my kitten. I was looking down at Abbey, who was looking up at me like, WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY AND WHY IS HE WEARING A COSBY SWEATER?, and I was trying to tell her with my eyes that it was okay, it was fine, I was going to get her her shots and boosters here, but for the declawing and everything else I would take her somewhere else, somewhere with vets in lab coats, somewhere with people in the lobby, somewhere that didn't look like a scene out of a horror movie, somewhere that didn't remind me of the dentist's office my parents used to go when I was little--the one with the dark wood paneling and the world's most terrifying macrame owl decorations on the wall. I did not psychically tell that cat that that dentist was a butcher and that I, a little girl sitting in an owl-ed waiting room, could often hear my mother crying out in pain while he worked on her without Novocaine. I didn't think she would want to hear that part of the story, especially since I had the same kind of feeling in my bones that I used to have when I entered that dentist's office.

I unzipped Abbey's carrier and was fairly impressed when she didn't immediately bolt out of the room. She let me pick her up and hold her and kiss her forehead. I did not want to put her on that table, but I summoned the strength and placed her paws to the steel.

It was over pretty quickly--one, two, three--and she only cried a little, right before he stuck her scruff with the third shot. After that, he wrote out a payment slip and a card that had Abbey's booster shot appointment on it, and then we were gone, gone, gone.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I whispered as I walked down the steps, down to my car. I talked to Abbey the whole way home, telling her we were almost there, we were so close. I told her I was going to give her treats and some of her favorite wet food. I told her she could pretty much do whatever she wanted all day, and I wouldn't say one thing about it. If she wanted to bite my ankles because I took her to see a man who grabbed her by the neck and thrust a sharp needle into it, so be it. I would take my lumps. I probably deserve them. Poor little kitten.


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