Max and I have been having a go at it. It began with his annual shots in February. From there the weather warmed nicely and Max went from a winter kitty, spending all day indoors napping and grooming, to a full-on bird watching, bird chasing, tree climbing, dirt rolling, catmint eating blur of an alley cat outside of my house. Zero to 60 in ten seconds flat. So it’s no wonder that his winter body wasn’t quite ready for this immediate transformation.
Just a couple of weeks after he got his annual shots, which I’m just certain must have included some caffeine and catnip, he sauntered up to my back porch one afternoon looking literally like something the cat had drug in. Only he was the cat that was being drug in.
His fluffy fur was matted down with what appeared to be foreign doggy drool and he was covered in dark, filmy mud. I was certain that his buddy, the neighbor’s giant hound dog, had mistaken him for a Frisbee and some intense, rough housing had ensued. I pictured my poor Max being hurled through the air, then caught between the strong jaws of the dog and finally being held down under a big furry paw as he tried wriggle to an escape, all in the name of puppy play.
For all my wild imagination had created, I knew Max had probably simply squeezed himself under some fence, clearly underestimating the extra weight he was carrying from winter’s lounging, and had gotten stuck if but for a moment between the wooden pickets and the mud beneath.
Regardless, he had been somewhere. And your guess is as good as mine.
As he jumped gingerly across the grass to run back inside, I thought I noticed him limp on his back leg. But with the story I had imagined involving the neighbor dog and Frisbees, I chalked it up to yet another minor Max incident that would disappear by the next time he stood at my back door, wanting to be let back out into the great outdoors.
Only it didn’t happen that way. He didn’t want to go out. He didn’t want to eat. He didn’t want to move. Day after day I would find him sulking in my closet, curled up on a winter sweater fallen from a hanger to the floor. He wouldn’t even raise his head.
I was worried.
But the real worry never hits until Saturdays, when the vet clinic is closed and I have enough time in the day to conjure up grandiose stories in my mind about his doomed fate. Before long I find myself worked up into a tizzy, fully believing that he may not survive to see Monday.
I called the vet, through the emergency weekend cell phone number. This was an emergency, right? Small towns definitely have their perks, and the vet did the best she could to diagnose my Max over the phone, based on statements like: “He’s depressed and won’t get up. He may have been limping on one foot. He’s just not himself.” She asked me detailed questions about the possible limp and the day he came back covered in mud and drool. You can imagine it was a highly scientific conversation based on these facts I had given. She promised to leave some antibiotics outside the vet’s office that I could begin to start giving Max.
The funny thing about cat and dog antibiotics is that they’re flavored like . . .bubble gum. Yes, bubble gum. Not tuna fish, or steak, or some kind of mystery meat. Nope, the liquid version is HOT pink and smells like bubble gum. Oddly, I wonder if cats and dogs find bubble gum to be yummy and who it was that made that scientific determination. Nonetheless, I gave my Max his daily dose of bubble gum, watching carefully for his depression to fade and his energetic kitty playfulness to return.
Only that didn’t happen either. I gave it another couple of weeks, until, you guessed it . . .a Friday when I was almost out of time to get him to the vet’s office and my doomsday thoughts began kicking in that he may not make it to Monday.
After of battery of tests including Max’s first x-ray, broken bones were luckily ruled out. However, she did notice a few “murky” vertebrae in his back and tail. She attributed it to Max getting caught somewhere and pulling himself loose or someone tugging him by his tail. You know which version I instantly went with. Who would yank my poor Max by his fluffy tail?!
I left the vet’s office with a daily regime of steroids, in decreasing quantities, to be given over two week’s time. Her hope was that the steroids would ease Max’s pain at least long enough for the “murky” vertebrae to heal. “Murky” vertebrae do heal, don’t they? What exactly is a “murky” vertebrae?
I decided I would save those questions for a Saturday, when I would become quite certain that these “murky” vertebrae were threatening his life.