Hello Kitty

BS degree? Yep, boyish stupidity.

I have concluded that I will never be completely useless as I long as I can serve as a bad example.  The following should serve as a cautionary tale of what NOT to do when dealing with wild animals.

We came home from a lovely dinner at the Capital Ale House in downtown Fred’burg (a very nice establishment). I was still feeling the euphoria of not having to clean up dishes or cook. As I prepared the coffee pot for tomorrow’s (Monday’s) usual week-long paycheck purgatory, Rachel slipped outside the back door to remind our cat just how lucky he is to live outside our home.

As I poured grounds into the coffee pot, I looked out into the fading light of a beautiful spring day. A crazed black and white cat raced back and forth within Rachel’s outdoor trampoline enclosure. Rachel stood right next to the opening.

Ah, there’s our beloved child tormenting our black and white cat.  I watched for a few seconds and then saw our black and white cat sitting lazily on the railing of the deck, watching the trampoline.  Okay, that’s not ours.  OH CRAP!

I raced outside and pulled her away from the opening.  The stray cat kept racing back and forth like a furry missile.  At this point, had I a bit more common sense, I should have grabbed Rachel, ran inside, and called animal control.

But no, I did not do that.  I hauled my college-educated butt into the enclosure with an agitated, semi-crazed feline.  Now the cat, realizing that an idiot approacheth clawed his way up the enclosure netting … and waited.

Now it is difficult to describe what sort of thoughts were going through my mind, so I’ll simply say my dinner of steak and potatoes drove out any rational sense of self-preservation.  So I reached out with my right hand and almost managed to grab the cat by the scruff of its neck.  Unfortunately, my aim was too low, and the cat whipped his head around and buried his long, sharp fangs not just into but through the meat of my thumb.  At that point, neither the cat nor I were very happy campers, and I certainly had second (and very hostile) thoughts.  While yelling, “let go, you little mustard” (or something that rhymes with that), I seized the animal by the scruff of his neck with my left hand. That immobilized him, and I pried his jaws open.

Okay, now what?  I had a hissing spitting cat in my left hand, which could very well be rabid, and I was standing in a fenced-in backyard with my seven-year-old staring at me.  She wanted to put the cat in a carrier, and I him wanted to be somewhere else.

In retrospect, I probably should have put the little finger muncher into a cat carrier. But at that moment, my mind was focused on escaping from being eaten and scratched by Cujo’s feline cousin.

Anyway, I walked over to the back fence and tossed my new furry friend into the bushes outside the yard.  Dripping blood all the way up to the house, I ran inside and put my munched digit under the cold water tap.  Now I had to decide what to do besides stopping the bleeding.  I did a quick lookup on animal bites and rabies and decided to go to the local emergency room, probably the only smart thing I did that evening.

After wandering back and forth for a few wasted minutes, I managed to find the entrance to the ER and slipped inside.  Luckily for me, only a few people sat waiting for attention.  I completed my paperwork while the Cartoon Network blared some adolescent noise at near-deafening levels. I refreshed my gratitude at having dropped my cable coverage last year before hearing my name called.

The nurse arrived, looking tired and tattooed, and asked me what had happened.  I went through the abridged version – which I always wish I could record and hit “play” when they ask the same questions over and over again.  Have you ever wondered why medical folks always type on the computer while they ask you the same thing every time?  Are they playing solitaire while you talk?  Are they listening, hoping you’ll change your story to something more intriguing?  Honestly, doctor, I meant to shove that screwdriver up my rectum.  It just seemed like the thing to do.  Or maybe it is just a delaying tactic designed to keep your mind off the spiraling cost of your visit?  Anyway, I did what I was told, which is sometimes a feat unto itself, and answered a few questions:

When was your last tetanus shot?

No clue.

You’ll need one, then.

Was the animal being observed?

No, it got away.

Okay, we’ll probably have to get you a rabies shot.

Lovely.  Okay, I’m thinking two shots, and I’m outta here.  Wait, animal control wants to talk to me.  The officer shows up and interviews me.  Luckily I’m not arrested for stupidity.  They must trap the animal, observe it, and confirm it does not have rabies.  Okay.  He runs off to chase a stray dog across town.

The nurse lopes in with a hypo.  I’ve got your tetanus shot. Where do you want it?  I try not to be a smart-ass and say, “in Disneyland.”  Oh hell, use my left arm; it’s not much more than a paperweight anyway.  Nurse smiles and says everyone believes the shot hurts but that it might just be a psychosomatic reaction. Yeah, yeah, I’m a big boy.  I felt a sharp pinch, followed by a dull throbbing pain.  Holy crap, that really does hurt!  Hope the rabies shot is easier than that.

I hear the ER doc two waiting rooms away threatening to have police remove a patient’s father for talking disrespectfully to him.  Oh, that’s great; he’ll be good and pissed off before he gets to me.  The very caffeinated Doc shows up, tells me I need a rabies shot, and wants my hand x-rayed to look for fang pieces.  Says cats have really nasty mouths, worse than dogs.  Makes sense. Every time I see a cat, it’s always licking – well, you know what.  Doc says I will need to take antibiotics to prevent an infection.  Also, he needs to make sure my finger does not start getting red or weepy; otherwise, they might need to “lop it off.”  Seriously, switch this man to decaf.

X-ray man drags me off to his lair, taking a jillion pictures (okay, about six) of me doing everything but giving him the finger. Though I would gladly do that if it would make things go faster.  Yet, mercifully, it is a short session, though I noticed that, unlike previous x-rays, they made no attempt to shield my fun nuggets. Guess once you hit 40, they must figure you pretty much shoot blanks anyway.  Perhaps I should have protested, but then again, if they got zapped and started glowing, it would make going to the bathroom at night much easier. It would be like having my own set of portable night lights.  Anyway, I digress.

Nurse comes in carrying a handful of hypos.  I look around, wait, there’s only me here. Maybe she’s taking a break on her way to the bubonic plague victim next door who is trying to excrete his lungs through his throat.

I’ve got your rabies shots.


There are five of them; Where do you want them?

I resist the urge to say, “How about in the guy next door?”

I can’t give them to you all in the same spot.

Now isn’t that a comforting thought?  Let’s see, left arm is out now, but good news! We’ve got a right arm, both thighs, and buttocks.  Great, now just pull my hair and tell me you love me, and my night will be complete.

So, we begin the pin cushion session.  Shots take a while – the serum has the consistency of “motor oil.”  Her words, not mine.  Oh, happy, happy day.

Another nurse comes in, washes the crusty mass of blood off of my hands, and cleans out the puncture wounds and surface scratches left by the cat’s scythe-like claws.  I resist wondering how much more damage I would have suffered if I had just simply wrung the cat’s neck.

Okay, now I’m full of holes, meds, and antibodies and have been irradiated.  Finally, I got the discharge paperwork.  That’s when I find my door prize.  Congratulations, you get to take four more follow-up shots for rabies at the ER over the next four weeks unless animal control can catch the cat.  Argh!  Finally, I make my way home after three hours at the ER.

So folks, if you ever find a stray animal in your backyard, go indoors and call animal control.  Don’t ever attempt cat wrangling.  You will get more than you bargained for.

The postscript to this story is that animal control caught the cat. When they finished observing it, they concluded it did not have rabies. By then, of course, I had finished my regime of inoculations. On the plus side, however, if I’m ever bitten by an animal, lawyer, or politician, I won’t need to worry about rabies.

The Cat


I’ve never been a cat person.  To me, cats are furry little retch machines, that claw your furniture, curtains, and legs when you get too close.  Not to mention being turd droppers whenever they get pissed.  So when my wife suggested we get a cat, I had to wonder — why in God’s name would I ever want to do that?  Well, the idea was  to give our oldest daughter an animal companion — a noble idea in principle, but fatally flawed in application, since my daughter has severe mental and physical challenges.  Anyway, Lynn found a gray and white, part tabby cat who lived with all her siblings in a college professor’s apartment.  The cat’s name was “Curiosity” which being such a cliche, meant we never called her that.  Instead we named her “Puddy.”  That name, however influenced by the old Warner’s brother’s Sylvester and Tweety cartoons, became a misnomer for a calm, fat and low-key feline.

But, since God has a wonderfully developed sense of humor, our daughter wanted nothing to do with Puddy, and the feeling was mutual.  That left our daughter’s cat to become “our” pet.  Now, for years I had labored under the delusion that cats were fairly self-maintaining, but that is nothing but an ugly lie — you have to daily feed, water, brush, and clean their boxes, vacuum scads of cat hair otherwise these “low maintenance” animals will whine, bite, pee and crap on everything, shed and retch scads of hair and “whatever the frag it ate” messes all over your house.  In short, they are about self maintaining as your average 3 year-old.

To make matters more interesting, Puddy had this obsession with crickets, which loved to get inside our house.  She’d stalk these little chirping intruders, plant her big gray and white paws on them, and rip their legs off.  Then, once finished with her malicious mutilation, she would ceremoniously drop the legless corpses in my wife’s shoes.  While I found this amusing, my wife did not.

Puddy had other strange habits initially, like trying to crawl under our blankets to go to sleep.  I shut the bedroom door after that; the prospect of furry things creeping around under the sheets was bad enough, but what settled the issue was attacking my feet in the middle of the night.  (Apparently my toes look like mice.)  She also knocked down the Christmas tree more than once, so I had to put a hook in the ceiling and wire the tree to it.  That aside, she spent her days chasing sunspots, and finding the absolutely most comfortable surface to lay on for hours and hours.  She liked taking baths, but only if the water was really warm.

Along about her 15th year, we brought our youngest daughter home from the hospital.  Now mixing babies with old cats is like using WD40 around an open flame, somebody is going to lose some hair and a fair amount of skin.  Oddly, though, they got along.  Puddy slept outside her room, and followed her around the house.  I’d like to say Puddy acted like that because of how our daughter treated her, but I cannot in good conscience do so.  In fact, Puddy acted this way in spite of how Rachel treated her; Rachel picked up that cat (who weighed nearly as much as she did), and carried her around the house like a sack of flour, dressed her up in doll clothes, and raced about with Puddy in her stroller.  Quite horrifying to watch, and made me both cringe and feel sympathy for Puddy.  Yet that cat would come back for more.

When she turned 17, Puddy started losing weight, yet she ate normally.  Being overweight most of her life, I looked at this initially as a good thing, but then the weight loss continued, and she started getting weak, and unable to do things she normally could do — like sit in the bay window.  I took her to the doctor, and they said she was suffering kidney failure.  At that point the question became when she was going to die, not if — and what to tell my youngest about her cat.  The kid seemed pretty oblivious to Puddy’s weakness, but we took to warming Puddy up in blankets and setting her in the places she used to like when she could get there unassisted.  Puddy’s attachment to Rachel stayed constant, and she hobbled along behind her, and one morning attempted to jump in bed with her, but was so weak she fell, and couldn’t get up.  I lifted her frail, furry gray frame up to Rachel’s bed, and let them love each other one last time.  It was clear Puddy would not be able to function independently and was in much pain.  So as much as I hated to, I made the decision to take her to the vet .  The trip to the vet passed slowly as my dread built.  She purred much of the time I held her, and I struggled mightily when the vet asked what we wanted to do.  I looked to my wife for some direction, but she was in no better shape than I.  So, as I stroked Puddy’s fur,  she passed on.

I like to think of myself as pretty contained, but we blubbered the whole way home.  And, if that weren’t bad enough, we had to tell Rachel what happened.  As one can expect, it did not go well, yet we hugged her and told her that Puddy was now in kitty heaven.   Being four years-old, Rachel didn’t have the capacity to deal with death, and has struggled with her emotions over the issue.  Some days, particularly when sad, she gets very quiet and grieves for her Puddy.  We resisted picking up a “replacement” animal as we already had two other cats to deal with.  But like Rachel, we will always remember Puddy as a sweet bundle of fur and much more than a “cat.”