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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Facts in the Case of Maximillian, cont.

Part Deux: "I ain't 'fraid of no ghost!"

I returned to the hospital the next morning and, after much anxious debate amongst the staff, Veronica was 'volunteered' to call the missing cat's owner and give her the troubling news about her escaped cat. Well, it turns out this woman is the Nicest Woman On Earth as she was beyond understanding about her cat getting away from us. She even felt bad for us and how distressed we must be about having lost him!

I know that between the two of us, Debbie and I had a grand total of two hours' sleep the night before, complete with waking nightmares. I can't think of many worse things to have to tell an owner than "I hate to tell you this but your perfectly healthy and happy cat that was boarding with us has somehow escaped and we have no idea where he is or how he is doing. Super sorry!"

Bleh, as much as that sucks, truly the last thing you want to hear regarding your boarding pet is that it died unexpectedly during its stay.

Still, our current situation was less than copasetic, as you never know how people are going to take this kind of news. I know how I'd take it: Not well. I'd not be upset with the staff because accidents happen and if I could see they were making a concerted effort to find my missing pet then I would certainly be reasonable. But I'd still be distressed. Thankfully this sort of thing happens rarely, in my experience.

Anyway, the cat's owner came that day to pick up her dog, who had also been boarding with us and thankfully had not managed to escape his run - we didn't need a freakin' Milo and Otis situation on our hands! He was the missing cat's good buddy, so I had hoped his continued presence in his indoor-outdoor run would serve to lure his feline friend back. So far, not so good.

The dog went home with his exceedingly kind mum that day, who then returned to spend a good part of her day trolling the neighbourhood, mixing calls of "Maximillian!" (our missing cat's name) with avid shakes of his favourite food tin.

She had no luck, and neither did we as Debbie and Veronica had already posted 'Wanted - Lost Cat - Reward!' signs up around the neighbourhood and we all had a look for him before work started. We joined the search after work as well. Max's owner had brought in a picture of Max the previous day, which we used for our poster as well as for posting his furry mug on the glorious (and free!) website, Pets On The Net. However slightly, it would serve to increase our odds of having someone find Max and catch him for us, if not give us a hot lead as to his whereabouts.

I was still to come back to the clinic that night for the same ailing cat, and once again there was no sign of Maximillian as I had another look round. Even Tabitha made a quiet entrance into the courtyard that night, perhaps having resigned herself to the fact that I'd not be swayed by her beseeching glances to let her inside for a catnap. She was still sitting by the back door staring at me as I left, so Tabitha is nothing if not persistent.

Sunday went much as Saturday had: Maximillian's owner being beyond generous and sympathetic, spending her day searching for her missing cat (in the drizzling rain, no less), we staff coping with our frayed nerves and trying not to lose hope that Max would ever turn up. So facing dwindling prospects regarding Max, a growing deficit of sleep, and the lingering presence of my sick hospital cat*, I returned for yet another night at the clinic on Sunday.

As I had finished treating our sick hospital cat (who would eventually succumb to his disease, the poor soul), I was once again shutting off the lights when another awful, heart-stopping crash came from outside, just like the other night.

"Dammit!" I muttered under my breath. Whatever else, Tabitha was keeping me on my toes at night and giving me a little comic relief with her hopelessly persistent attempts to crash the gate, as it were, and get inside.

Because it had to be Tabitha, right? There was no way it could be a ghost. No sirree, there was no way I was letting my overly active imagination take me there. Not in all that darkness, with my heart pounding so loudly, absurd recollections of horror stories penned by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft swirling unbidden through my consciousness.

Too much television lately? Hell, I'd been reading too many stories!

This time, as I crept stealthily to the security panel inside the back door, I noticed a little black silhouette sitting just outside. Tabitha usually made a beeline for the front building's door, but maybe she was upping the ante with this more direct approach.

This silhouetted cat, upon seeing me, began meowing excitedly and standing up on its hind legs, pawing at the door - also odd for Tabitha, who was usually more Jedi-like with her frequent attempts to get inside.

And it was also the wrong building... Dare I let my hopes escalate? Grinning, I flicked on the outside light, only to behold --


There he was, the same plump grey and black tabby from the yard the other day, standing on his back legs and begging to be let inside. It had been raining so he was damp and cold but other than that he looked no worse for wear.

As quick as I could manage, I spun open the lock and flung open the door.

Still meowing, but now uncertainly, Max hesitated at the door, even backing up half a step as if he was about to bolt away.

Quickly I began calling to him and encouraging him to step inside. He was not going to get away from me now! Losing him twice in one weekend was not on, even if I had to slog through rain and mud to tackle him in the yard outside.

Not that catching a cat in the dark would ever be easy...

But my good luck continued as Max hesitated for only a few seconds before launching himself inside. I quickly shut and locked the door and turned on the inside lights.

Max was really back and now he was safely inside. He meowed to me with his every breath, as if telling me in a rush about his harrowing journey and up-til-now unsuccessful attempts to get back to the hospitality of his warm and cosy indoor cat run. He was probably also asking why the hell we locked him out and, perhaps, where in the world his canine buddy had gone.

Max never let me out of his sight, nor was he out of mine, as he excitedly ran right next to me up and down the halls as I got together a fresh litter box and food dish for him. If there was a counter nearby, he leapt up onto it and continued his chatter, gratefully accepting the pats that I was all too happy to give him.

Exulting, I opened the door to the cat ward, opened the door to the biggest cat cage I could find, and then, quite happily and quite resolutely, stuffed Maximillian into his cage. Never have I closed and locked a cage door so fast!

I took one final triumphant stare at the happy grey and black tabby on the other side of the glass, watching him gorge himself on food and water, when a thought occurred to me:

"God, I hope it's the right cat."

But it was! And I was 99.9% sure of that at the time, but the truth would not come until the next morning, when his overjoyed mother would come to finally take Max home.

He had one final meow or two of thanks for me (I like to think that's what he was 'saying' at this point) and then tucked back into his biscuits.

Checking for the fifth time that Max's cage was securely locked (it was), I then exited the cat ward (firmly closing the door behind me), the rear building (firmly closing and locking the door after achieving 'Full On' status), and finally the courtyard (which I could not lock, but believe me, I wanted to).

Blissful sleep came quickly that night. Lucky breaks will do that for you.

* Were it not for this cat's presence and his wonderfully dedicated owners, we would certainly not have this story.


Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Maximillian returned! Wonderful, wonderful story with a grand ending! Now, when do we get the next of your All Creatures Great and Small stories?

4:39 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Thanks for that Nick! Yes I'm glad that story had a happy ending all right. As far as my next story, well nothing comes to mind at present but I'm sure something interesting will happen to me again soon! Cheers.

9:20 PM  
Blogger EvaKCAidan said...

Lucky!!!!!!!!!!!I will type it again... LUCKY!!!!!! Great story!!

2:35 PM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Brooksie, if my personal experience is accurate, when one is dealing with four-footed creatures, something always comes up that makes a good story. For example, Thursday I added to The Muffin Saga and here I am at 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning, with Alex on my desk napping beside the computer, creating a post about the Furball and my adventures yesterday.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

Eva - You are so right! Thanks for the comment and for reading!

Nick - Good point, and I am glad I have more of the Muffin Saga to now catch up on. I have probably become used to some things as commonplace in my day job but that others might find interesting. I'll keep my eyes peeled for another good story!

12:39 AM  
Blogger Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Exactly, Brooksie! What is routine and even boring for you can be fascinating for others. The “lambing season”—I believe that’s what he called it—must be tedious for large animal veterinarians. Yet, each time I read about it in one of the James Herriot books, I was amazed again at the wonder of a new life being born.

In lie manner, during my years of active ministry, I officiated more than 200 weddings. For me that became routine—even the screw-ups in wedding rehearsals and the services I expected. Yet, when I tell stories of bare foot grooms (“I couldn’t find my shoes”) or confused brides (one thought the service was over at it’s very beginning) people want me to tell more.

Thus I encourage you to write more about your veterinary practice: there are many of us wanting to hear your stories!

12:34 PM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

You do have some great stories about the weddings you officiated, and excellent point about what seems mundane to you may be quite interesting to those not as familiar with the circumstances.

Thanks for the help on the perspective, Nick, I'll have to re-visit some of the things I've seen and done and come up with more to tell. I appreciate your interest!

9:48 PM  

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