Saturday, October 30, 2010


Last week, The Lady-Killer was spending the night at his best friend's place--a sweet bachelor pad on top of the best friend's grandmother's house, which is handy because Grammy occasionally wanders upstairs to leave cookies or cinnamon rolls she's just baked--and that meant Abbey and I were on our own. When TLK isn't home, Abbey takes up her old position, something I used to refer to as Substitute Boyfriend.

When Substitute Boyfriend Abbey realizes that, hey, that boy who lets her smell his breath--which is one of her favorite pastimes--isn't going to be in the bed with me overnight, she hops up on the bed and stands on the empty pillow until I raise the blankets. Then she goes under, turns around, and situates herself so that her head rests on the pillow, so that her body is spooned against mine. And then we go to sleep.

This is how it used to be, pre-TLK. I imagine Abbey gets very nostalgic for those days, since now that TLK is in her spot she sleeps in one of the less-awesome nests she has around the house (the blanket on my desk, the giant box full of fluff, the recliner).

Usually Abbey is a very good bed-mate. She's snuggly, warm, and she smells good (cotton candy, maple syrup, or oatmeal, depending on the day). Usually we can pass the whole night snuggling like that, but last week at 4:30 AM Abbey began to wheeze, and those wheezes woke me up. She's had colds before, and she has a generally squeaky nose, but this was different than all that. This was something that sounded painful.

So I made her an appointment at the vet's. As soon as I hung up the phone with the receptionist, I began the long process of dreading this appointment. After all, Abbey is not a cat who takes kindly to others. It's no secret that I raised her in strict Single Mother with Only Child style so that Abbey loves me, only me, and generally distrusts anyone who tries to show me attention. And if they try to show her attention? Forget it.

And it wasn't only that. The logistics of getting her there also stressed me out. Abbey has done many trips back to New York with me--and that's a 9 hour car drive--but apparently she's so over those because this summer, when I was headed off to New York, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, Abbey refused to get in the carrier. TLK and I did everything we could to make this happen, but Abbey thrashed, bit, clawed, and yowled until we gave up.

I figured I'd have a repeat of that when I tried to put her in the carrier to take her to the vet's. And I wasn't wrong.

I gave myself an extra twenty minutes to get her into the carrier before we needed to leave to make our appointment. They were the most exhausting twenty minutes of my life. I tried gentle coaxing. I tried treats. I tried wet food. I tried begging. Then I tried more forceful efforts. I tried putting her in frontward, backward, sideways. I tried to hold her above the carrier and lower her in.

Nothing worked. She made the most heartbreaking sounds. She stared up at me and cried-cried-cried. Those eyes were saying, Mama! How could you?!

I was fresh out of ideas. And by that time we were going to be late, and I was crying too. (YOU try listening to that gut-wrenching, you're-killing-me sound for 20 minutes without shedding a tear!) So I did the only thing I could. I got on the phone with the vet and asked if they had any tricks of the trade that would help me get her in the carrier.

"Oh, just put a little food in the back of the carrier, and she'll go right in," the receptionist said.

But Abbey's too smart for that. Abbey just sits in front of the carrier and is all like, "Do I look like an idiot?"

Besides, I'd already tried it, even though I knew it wouldn't work when I began the process.

"Well," the receptionist said, "is there an alternate mode of transportation?"

That's when it dawned on me: The Box.

The Box is Abbey's favorite nesting area. See?

It's a giant affair, left over from my move from the Old Apartment of Death. It's filled with fluff I purchased after Abbey developed the habit of kneading the batting she'd confiscated from the underside of my recliner. The Box is where Abbey goes while we're in the office. It's where she often sleeps at night.

I hated the thought of ruining one of her sanctuaries, but I had to get her to the doctor's office. I'd spent a terrifying half hour earlier that week Googling "cat with stuffy nose" and the results had been YOUR CAT'S LUNGS MAY BE FILLING WITH LIQUID AS WE SPEAK AND SHE IS GOING TO DROWN IMMEDIATELY. I was sufficiently terrified.

So I dragged the giant box into the living room and in my most chipper voice I said, "Abbey! Look! It's your box! I am going to put this dish of food in your box! How do you feel about that?"

Abbey felt swell about that, and she hopped right into the box and started eating her food. She didn't even mind when I started closing the top, as that's part of a game we play. She also didn't mind when I picked the box up and started walking toward the door with it. Abbey is a box fan, a box expert, a box aficionado, and hardly a day goes by where she isn't sitting in a shoebox waiting patiently to be picked up and carried around. She probably just thought that's what we were doing with this much bigger box.

When we got outside, however, Abbey could sense disaster brewing, and that's when she stopped eating her food and gave one cry.

"It's okay, Abbey!" I said. "I love you!" I looked like a jackass: I was a girl speaking to a giant box labeled BEDROOM/CLOTHES.

I put her in the car, and we started toward the vet's. Abbey tried once or twice to break out of the box--she pushed her head against it, her little pink nose the only thing visible from the tiny opening in the box folds--but we managed to make it unscathed. And then I walked into the lobby, where plenty of local pet owners were waiting with their normal pets who were lolling about on a leash or in a carrier. One cat was even sleeping on a sample cat house someone was selling.

My cat was crying and poking her pink nose through the opening in the box. In a few minutes' time she would get so stressed out in the exam room that she would release her anal glands and coat the good doctor in that liquid.

Still, she wasn't as bad as I thought she'd be. There was no biting. There was no swatting. In fact, Abbey, in her addled, over-taxed state, loved up on each of the nurses and doctor. She rubbed her body all over them, let them pet her--but she growled the whole time she sought their love. Maybe it was her attempt to say, "Hey! I'm cute! Look! I'm nice! Please don't kill me!" while simultaneously letting them know she was in the mood to cut a bitch.

In the end, there wasn't anything really wrong with Abbey. The doctor thought she might have a touch of a cold, and he prescribed her a low dose of medicine before sending us on our way. And on the way out, a woman who was coming into the office held the door for me. She looked confused as to why I was bumbling a giant box through the doorframe.

"It's okay," I said to the meowing box. And then, to the lady, I said, "It's a long story." Which, I think, is an understatement.

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