"There's a cat coming in, head trauma, about five minutes"
The spark of adrenaline that accompanied this announcement spread in a tangible wave through the treatment room. Immediately techs sprang into action, preparing for the worst. IV catheters, tape, and clippers were laid out. The crash box was opened and wheeled into position. Fluids were hung, and other tasks in progress were cleared away. The stage was set.
It was a busy morning, and I had seen a steady stream of patients. My next client was waiting for me in an exam room, and another was checking in at the front desk. But this changed things. I hurried up to the exam room, hoping to get through the visit before the emergency arrived.
"Grab me when they get here" I bellowed over my shoulder as I left the treatment room.
Quickly lost in the exuberant greetings of a pair of golden retrievers, in for their annual exam, I hurried through the appointment. Finding nothing more ominous than a little dental tartar I gave them both a clean bill of health, drew some blood for heartworm checks, and was giving a final vaccine when Gerry, my receptionist, stuck her head round the door with an inscrutable expression on her face and announced "They're here, but its okay to finish up, the cat is stable".
So, I made sure that the pups got their treats, answered a couple of questions for their owners, then high-tailed it back to the treatment room, expecting to see a huddle of techs around the treatment table. But there was no hustle, no frenzied taking of vital signs and myriad other details of initial patient assessment. In fact, there was no patient at all.
"She's in room four with Denise" was the answer to my puzzled stare. "The cat looks okay, and she won't let go of it". So I turned around and headed back towards the exam rooms. The door to room four was open, and a muffled sob emanated from within. I squeezed in past a bemused and befuddled Denise, to find the most unusual sight awaiting me.
Sitting on a chair in the corner of the exam room was a young woman in a midnight blue plush bathrobe, and pink slippers. her long black hair as damp as if she had just stepped out of the shower, which, apparently, she had. Tears were adding to the moist environment, running down her face in rivulets. She glanced up as I entered the room, sniffled, wiped a damp nose on her sleeve, and moaned again. "I thought I killed him."
It was then that I noticed the cat. Clutched in her lap, all but enveloped in the voluminous folds of her robe was a midnight black cat. He seemed not the least perturbed by his odd circumstances. Licking himself languidly he gazed up at me, his sapphire eyes daring me to suggest that there might be anything the least bit unusual going on. Relieved to see that the cat was obviously in no immediate danger, and beginning to see the humour in the situation, I suspect I might have smiled. The young woman's face reddened slightly, and she gathered the cat up protectively.
"let me explain" she said in a small voice, as I adopted my most non-judgmental facial expression and leaned against the counter. "we were taking a shower..." Again my facial muscles may have twitched slightly "but you have to understand, we always take a shower together, don't we Eddie?" And Eddie, pleased to be the center of attention, batted playfully at her nose as she leaned over him. She looked up at me, as if daring me to find anything untoward with this revelation, then, apparently satisfied by my lack of response, she explained.
"He's always liked water ever since he was a kitten. He always jumps in the shower. I just finished washing my hair and I decided to do him too. I shampooed him, and it was taking too long to get the suds off so I held him up to the shower head to rinse him. He must have got spooked, 'cause he jumped out of my arms. He was so slippery. He bounced off the door and landed right on his head. It's all tile... and I heard his head hit,,. and I thought I killed him!" Obviously she was reliving the moment because the tears began to flow again, as she clutched him to her chest.
"Perhaps" I interjected, "I should take a quick look at him? As if surprised by the suggestion, she held him for a moment more, then slowly and reluctantly she held him out to me.
Apparently tired of the attention, Eddie chose this moment to make his break. With a sinuous wiggle he reached for the edge of the exam table, and was about to launch himself towards the sink when I grabbed him from behind, and with the help of Denise returned him to the table. Quickly I launched into a thorough and professional physical exam that culminated in a careful inspection of Eddie's neurological status. Surprisingly, Eddie cooperated fully, and before long I was able to proclaim him unharmed by his misadventure. I scooped him up and handed him back to his owner with an admonishment that she should keep a close eye on him for the next 24 hours.
Now feeling perhaps a little self conscious, she thanked me quickly and turned to go. Eddie cuddled in her arms, purring loudly, and gazed knowingly at me over her shoulder. Cat and mistress blended together as he nuzzled her still damp hair, and as she turned the corner I almost thought I saw him wink.