Monday, January 31, 2011

Lilly Goes to the Vet

It's a lovely mid-autumn Tuesday morning, but as I head toward the barn, I'm full of anxiety. I'm wondering whether I'm going to be able to get Lilly to the vet for her 9:00am appointment. For weeks now, she's been showing up for morning and evening feedings. There are occasions though, especially on nice days, when she skips a meal and I might not see her for another 12 hours. Aside from that, I doubt she's ever been in a car, or a house, or any kind of confined area before. So this could be a very stressful time for her-- and us.

Before I make it to the barn, Zorro is at my feet, escorting Muscade and me to the feed room door. So far, there's no sign of Lilly. I put Zorro's food in his dish, then before I can return the lid to the plastic tub, I hear Lilly's raspy, lounge-singer-like meow in the isle. I'm relieved, but now I have to calculate my next move carefully. I figure I have one shot to get the timid, easily-spooked creature into the cat carrier. If I mess it up, she'll likely disappear into one of her well-chosen hiding spots for hours.

I rattle a dish full of food as I walk into the tack room where Lilly usually takes her meals. Last night, I had the foresight to pull the cat carrier into the centre of the room and prop its door open with a plastic container. So now, instead of placing the food dish the corner of the room by the door, I slide it into the cat carrier. Lilly (who always seems famished) is halfway in before she senses a ruse and tries to wriggle back out through the door. She's too late though. I've got one hand behind her bum, and the other on the carrier's door. I slam the door closed, but don't latch it. Then in a final act of cruelty, I reach in and remove the bait. Lilly's not allowed to eat breakfast before her surgery.

Lilly emits a desperate, pleading meow from the carrier, but she doesn't growl or hiss or spit. I still have an hour or so before I actually have to leave for the vet's so I move the carrier into the car where Lilly will be safe from the curious noses and paws of both Muscade and Zorro. When I finish my chores, I risk a glance into the car. There's no more meowing. Instead, Lilly is curled up into a tight ball. She seems to be sleeping.

During the 20 minute drive to the vet's, Lilly is silent. When I can, I stretch my fingers through the metal door of the carrier, and she rubs happily against them. She actually seems less-timid, and more comfortable than normal.

In the waiting room, she finds her voice again and serenades the staff with her raspy call. Still though, she's much less anxious than I expected, and she purrs when I reach in to pet her (so much for our wild, untamed cat). Since both Dave and I will be out for most of the evening, we decide to leave her at the clinic for the night.

Later that Afternoon
The phone rings. The number on the caller ID says "Fundy Vet". I answer.

"Hi, this is Dr. Eye calling from Fundy veterinary".

"Oh hi"

"I wanted to let you know that Lilly is fine."

"Oh good"



"Well, (pause) you don't know anything about Lilly's history do you? How old she is? whether she's had kittens before? whether she's ever been sick?

"No, she just turned up here this spring".

"That's what I thought. Well, she is ok, but we had a bit of a complication during the surgery. We found something rather odd."

She went on to explain that when they opened her up, they found what they thought was her uterus, but it wasn't. It was a sack that was blocking her uterus and it was full of a fluid that looked like chocolate milk (her words, not mine). The sack could be full of infection. It could contain a dead fetus. It could be just about anything. They really had no idea. In her 30+ years of practice, Dr. Eye had never seen anything like it before, nor had the other vet at the clinic who has been practising for just about as long. They were both baffled.

Needless to say, this "complication" meant the surgery lasted considerably longer than usual because they had to remove the strange sack as well. They also took a sample of the fluid to check it for infection. Kindly, Dr. Eye said they wouldn't charge me for any of this, but if I didn't mind, they'd like to prescribe some extra antibiotics for Lilly as a precaution in case any of the foul fluid had leaked into her body. I readily agree.

The next morning, I return to the vet to pick up Lilly. She's attained celebrity status. I tell the receptionist who I am, and that I'm there to pick up Lilly-- the cat with the strange fluid sack.

Her response: "that was so odd yesterday, we all took turns going in to take a look. Afterwards we all kicked ourselves because no one thought to take a picture of it."

Curious myself, I ask a few questions about the odd growth, and she proceeds to draw a rough diagram of how it had looked. In the meantime, another staff member gently hands me Lilly's carrier. She tells me Lilly is very friendly and has just finished her breakfast. Aside from her shaved belly, she looks pretty good-- no sign of stress whatsoever.

Lilly is under strict orders not to run, jump, hunt, leap, or fight until the long incision on her belly has healed. Unfortunately, she doesn't take orders well, so we confine her to the mud room for her 3 day convalescence-- another first for our outdoor barn cat.

She settles in well, and seems to love the attention being lavished upon her. She doesn't even mind my occasional prodding at her incision. And she swallows her medication without complaint. The only problem is that despite her disposable litter box, she prefers to pee on gloves, boots, hats, or anything else that gets left on the floor.

By the end of the week, her incision begins to heal, and the vet calls to say that test results show "the fluid" wasn't some kind of deadly infection, so we decide to let Lilly back outside again. She's a much different cat now though, and not just because she's missing a few internal parts. She's still meek and timid, but when she's feeling brave enough, she rubs against our legs, begging to be cuddled and held. And she hangs around in plain sight much more often.

January 2011

Lilly's mostly white face is no longer gaunt and skeletal. It's round and jolly looking, as is her ever expanding belly (at least we know she can't be pregnant).
She has created a den for herself in the hayloft, and that's where she can be found if she's not out hunting.

She no longer picks fights with Zorro, but they're far from friends. In fact, he seems to think he owns the place, and he now delights in tormenting poor Lilly. He stalks her and plots random attacks which leave her cowering in corners and under cars. She doesn't fight back, she just flattens her ears, closes her eyes, tucks her head between her front paws and makes herself as small as possible. Thankfully, Lilly is as agile as a tightrope walker and most of the time she escapes by leaping speedily and gracefully to her hayloft sanctuary. Luckily for her, Zorro is clumsy, hesitant, and uncomfortable in the rafters, so he rarely follows.

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