Hellcat | The Chronicles of Enasni | 4
Enasni was a remote and barren place, with a rocky coastline and constant cold wind. The community was an island unto itself in many respects, and the outside world, with its modern conveniences, was almost non-existent. The nearest community of any size offering veterinary service was two hours distant. One evening, as I was preparing to leave the emergency department of the small community hospital, a couple showed up at at the ambulance entrance with a large German Shepard, begging me to help. The dog had more than 100 porcupine quills in its mouth, tongue, lips and face. I felt obligated to do something.
After narrowly escaping bites several times from the terrified animal, I decided to sedate it with a major tranquilizer. I met with some success and managed to removed all the quills from the oral cavity and the majority of the others. The hospital administrator was not impressed when she discovered my actions and informed me in no uncertain terms that the hospital provided service to humans, and humans only.
In a small community, however, word spreads fast, and the word was Dr.S. does vet work and he does it for free. I hadn't figured out a way to bill the province for the service , and charging the pet owners would have the vet community in an outrage had word got out. Unwittingly, I had sown the seeds of my own content and future humiliation.
I was occasionally called upon to sew up lacerations or remove shotgun pellets from cats and dogs. Occasionally I would balk if the injuries were too severe, but I would help if I could, knowing the owners were unlikely to travel the distance or spare the expense for a real vet.
My final foray into veterinary medicine began with a visit from an elderly male patient of mine. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man in his 70s - a confirmed bachelor who lived with his even more elderly mother, who was in her 90s. He asked me to perform a house call for his mother's routine care, as it was too difficult for her to travel.
After I finished my visit with the mother, the son cornered me and confided the real reason for his house call request. He held up a bedraggled looking cat who was older than his mother (in cat years). It had scabs all over its emaciated body and most of its teeth were absent. He told me the cat was unable to eat, was vomiting blood and obviously dying. The problem was his mother insisted the cat was fine and refused to consider having the animal put down. He proposed I give the cat something surreptitiously so its demise would appear natural to his mother, who was clearly head of the household. I considered his request and, against my better judgement, agreed to comply.
As I searched through my medical bag, I pulled out a 10mg vial of morphine that I carried for cardiac emergencies. Considering the weight of the cat and the anticipated effect. I felt this would be plenty to sedate it and suppress its respirations to the point of a natural-appearing death. As the son held the cat, I injected the drug into its hind quarter , I left with a vague sense of unease and, yes, a little bit of smugness.
A few days later I happened upon my co-conspirator while he was visiting someone at the hospital. I sensed immediatley that something was wrong by his demeanor and facial expression. I asked how things were.
"My mother is not well at all. She is very upset about the cat and all the damage," the son said.
I felt butterflies as I asked him to explain.
"After you left, the cat started acting strange. It hissed at Mother and jumped up on the kitchen table. I tried to pick it up, but it attacked." He showed me some nasty scratches on his forearm.
"It jumped up on Mother's china ledge an' tore along it knockin most of the plates over and shatterin em, mom said they were antique yknow."
I swallowed hard.
"The thing went crazy, running around and howling, pulling all the curtains down n shit, damned thing even tried jumping through the glass. Eventually I got her locked in the pantry. We were terrified the thing would attack us."
"It smashed around in there for a few hours and then we didn't hear anything. I peeked in and it was dead on the floor. Mother is convinced the devil possessed the creature! She's been praying, actually praying, that the house aint cursed for good!"
My smugness evaporated into remorse. I apologized for what had happened and swore to myself I would never practice on animals again.
My reputations as a vet lay in ruins and I was the butt of more than a few jokes. Sometimes the nurses at the hospital would "meow" behind my back and giggle as my face turned crimson. I was told of a conversation between one of my patients and his wife, when he returned home from seeing me and disclosed my diagnosis of hypertension. Her blunt response was, "That man can't even treat a cat right and you're believing him?"
It turns out cats respond to opiods a whole lot differently than humans. Who'd have thought it?
I've never attempted to treat an animal again, although when my bulldog came home recently with a laceration under his eye, I thought, I can fix that. Then, I swear, I heard a barely audible "meow" behind my back.