Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Winston’s Story (Or “The Amazing and Miraculous Thing that Truly Happened to Us”) (PART 2)

On Wednesday night, just before my wife Ashley and I were about to retire for the evening, Winston dashed to the back door to be let out. Normally, I don’t like to let her out at bedtime because this means I’ll have to get up and let her in again at some point. However, the night was warmish and our bedroom windows were open so I figured she could come back in when she was ready via the hole she tore in our bedroom window screen a couple of years back. (We’ve left it there on the premise that she’ll just tear a new hole in any new screen we put up.)

Minutes later, I had just removed my glasses and was getting into bed when I heard the sound of cats squalling on the back deck. Usually when this happens, I break my ass running down the hall, fling open the back door and find Winston and a neighborhood cat facing off at opposite ends of the deck. This time, though, I flung open the door and turned on the deck’s floodlight to see Winston and a cat easily twice her size locked in a screaming, hissing, clawing, rolling ball of kitty combat. I ran out onto the deck, in my underwear, determined to break it up, but I didn’t really want to reach my hands into the swirling mass of cat claws to do so. Instead, I gave them an Incredible Hulk roar. My Incredible Hulk roar has worked wonders in past cat fights. It even caused one invading cat to leap off the side of the deck in fear, falling ten feet to the ground, though not to his doom. This time, the other cat didn’t seem to care about the Hulk. Before I had time to consider alternatives, Winston managed to break free from the other cat and dash into the house. The other cat still didn’t care that I was standing there, for he attempted to give chase and have another go at Winston. I, in turn, tried to stop this by applying a Hulk-Smash style fist to his cat person. Naturally, I missed a direct impact and instead grazed the cat’s body. It did seem to get his attention, though, and he scurried down the deck steps and disappeared into the night.

We found Winston in my office, hiding beneath my desk. There was a strong smell of cat urine, as she’d peed her self during the fight. Her nose and mouth were bleeding, as was a back foot claw. We took her to the bathroom and began cleaning her up with moist washcloths. Upon examination, we found that the bleeding in her mouth was due to one of her canine teeth having snapped off near the gum line. It dangled free in her mouth, giving us both the willies to look at. And her back claw that we thought was bleeding turned out to be covered in the blood of the other cat, as well as a chunk of his fur. I’d seen more chunks of it out on the deck and was happy to note there was far more of him left behind than her. He had been a very large cat, easily twice her size. I couldn’t really say that I got an in depth look at him, but from what I had seen I knew that his coloration was mostly sandy with some blotches of darker hair thrown in. And while he wasn’t exactly a long-haired cat, the hair had seemed at least longer than Winston’s short orange hair.

“Guess I’ll have to take her to the vet tomorrow,” I said.

I phoned the vet the following day, explained the situation and asked if I could bring Winston in for inspection. I also asked if I could go ahead and update her shots while I was there. I’m mortified to have to say it, but I had let Winston’s vaccinations lapse. I have no excuse for it, but as I said, we’ve never had to worry about her much so it never seemed as important as it should have.

When I took Winston in, the vet on duty, Dr. Barrier, came into the examination room and said he’d been told why I was there and had examined Winston’s records. He then asked me if the cat that had attacked Winston had been a neighbor’s cat or one that was wild. I told him I had no idea. We don’t know many of our neighbors, but the ones immediately around us don’t seem to own cats. We know there are cats in the neighborhood, because they’ve come round to visit before, but I had no idea if this one was one of theirs.

At this, Dr. Barrier looked grim. He explained that according to state law, any animal that attacks another must be assumed to be rabid unless proof can be obtained otherwise. In the case of cats, owners of an attacking animal can provide proof of vaccination. If the cat is wild, it can be captured, euthanised and tested. He said it wouldn’t have been a major issue either way, except that Winston’s own vaccinations were expired. The state requires pets be vaccinated once every two years, but are willing to allow three years between vaccinations in cases such as ours. Unfortunately, Winston had last been vaccinated in November of 2002, over three and a half years ago. According to state law, Winston would either have to be euthanized herself (the state’s preference) or spend 6 months in quarantine, unless we could provide proof that the cat who attacked her was clean. By quarantine, Dr. Barrier explained that this meant she would have to live in a small cage in a state-approved facility and this cage could only be tended to by one person, once per day, under very strict guidelines. After five months, if there was no sign of rabies, the cat could be vaccinated and then a month later released. He showed me the printed regulations that spelled this out.

Hearing that, I could not imagine anything more hellish to inflict upon Winston than six months in a cage. She was freaked out enough after being stuffed into her cat carrier and driven across town. And as half-crazy as she can be during normal conditions, there’s no way her little kitty sanity would survive 6 months in a cage, assuming she was even able to physically survive it. Perhaps if she were a younger cat, things might be different. In her case now, though, that would be cruelty at its purest.

I told Dr. Barrier that I would sooner see her put to sleep than have to go through quarantine. He said he understood, but that we weren’t to that point yet. Legally, he would soon have to phone the state and alert them to this situation, but there was some leeway even in that. Rabies takes a while to take effect, so while he wanted to keep Winston overnight for observation and treatment, he would gladly release her to us whenever we wanted. He suggested we should start asking around the neighborhood about the attacking cat and see if we could find its owners and prove its health. Other than that, he said we could get a live trap and see if we could capture it. I asked if they had any to loan out. They did, but theirs was currently on loan. Dr. Barrier wasn’t sure where in the area we could find one, because the last time his office had to buy one they’d had to drive over an hour away to the next biggest town.


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An employee of a small town "liberry" chronicles his quest to remain sane while dealing with patrons who could star in a short-lived David Lynch television series.