Cat Panic: Part 1


A housecat, when provoked, can make at least three different liquids, and mine did not want to be confined to a crate and driven in the car from New York City to far Northern Westchester County, so he promptly made all three in that crate.  At that point, he panicked, and who wouldn’t? Trapped in a plastic crate with an inch of three nasty cat liquids is horrifying. Schwartz started thrashing and tearing wildly at the metal bars of his crate with his claws. Soon he was bleeding as well.  
I was liberally splashed with the nasty cat liquids while I drove, and so was the interior of my (then) brand-new car.
When we arrived at the Big Red Barn, Schwartz got a bath before I unloaded anything else from the car.  It was early September, so he dried pretty fast on his own.  I was able to clean the dashboard and window and seat and steering wheel of my new car. Schwartz had damaged a nail which ended up taking months to heal, but it did heal after all that, on its own. I unpacked and got busy having this long, bad vacation.
Schwartz was due for shots this week, and even though he is an indoor-only cat, he has a talent for slipping out the door as you bring in the groceries, so I keep him up to date on all his vaccines.  Did I know what I was getting myself into yesterday when I headed out to the vet? I certainly had not forgotten the cat panicking in the car in early September, but I must have indulged in some magical thinking: “He’s been good, he’ll be good,” or “He’s forgotten,” or “It’s not that far.”
I was wrong.
This time, I put the crate in the back of the station wagon. This time, I put an old towel in with him.  This time, I covered the crate with an old blanket, in case of splashing. This time he behaved in more or less the same way he had behaved on his last trip.
It was raining very hard, and in my distraction with the ruckus going on in the way-back, I drove past the proper exit. I turned to my car’s built-in GPS for help, and it disagreed with what Google Maps on my phone was suggesting. Three miles and fifteen minutes later, I stopped in a park to call the vet. “Oh, you have to tell your GPS it’s Bedford Road, not North Bedford Road.” As I drove out of the park to re-trace my route for the third time, I saw a family of Canada geese enjoying a pond that had jumped its banks in the torrential rain.  The adult geese looked like they were having trouble getting the goslings together.
At the vet, it was agreed that they would take Schwartz to the back to do the exam, give him his shots and clean him up. We had brought two stool samples, one planned, and another was Schwartz’s spontaneous contribution in his crate. He had torn out two nails this time, and so along with the planned vaccines, he got a shot of antibiotics and some Buprenex, for pain.  We were late picking up The Battlefield from school.
Wet cat is freaked
Once home again, I felt that Schwartz needed another bath. I was reacting to the third stool sample he had produced which was stuck to him. I scooped him up, and began the bath routine.  By the time I realized that the traumatic vet visit, sandwiched between two terrifying car rides and including several shots and a dose of pain-killer, might induce some unexpected behavior, I was forcibly opening his jaws with one hand in an effort to get his teeth out of my left arm. He scratched my arm and my back, and gave me two cat bites, one of which drew blood, the other just left marks.  The frenzy of his panic and the ferocity of his attack were unlike anything I had ever seen him do.  I left him alone and wet in the bathroom for a couple of hours.
The scratches hurt more than the bites. My shirt was torn. Poor kitty. Poor me.

Vacations and Imaginary Places

How often does a person need a vacation?  Certainly vacations are a first-world luxury, and even within the developed world, standards for appropriate amounts of time off vary from the American two weeks to countries like France and Finland where they have 10 national holidays and 30 mandatory days of vacation.  Even within the U.S. there is wide variability about holidays granted by employers; my husband, the Bacon Provider, earned his keep at Microsoft for almost 18 years, never once getting to enjoy Martin Luther King Day because it’s business as usual at Microsoft on Martin Luther King Day.  By my accounting, he worked 18 days that the federal government set aside to honor a civil rights leader and encourage shopping after Christmas.  This is almost four weeks of vacation.
For our spring vacation last year, we planned a trip to Japan and Hawaii. The Bacon Provider has been to Japan on business a number of times, and has been talking about taking me there for years. We were also taking our two kids still in the house these days, boys aged 17 and 13. I have been looking forward to going to Japan for a long time. We bought tickets in advance to visit the Ghibli Museum on April 14th. You have to buy these tickets in advance, but it is not possible to purchase tickets from the U.S. online. Instead, you must make reservations over the phone. It is a complex transaction, where the purchaser is required to give the full name and birthdate of each ticket-holder.  This memorable phone conversation took up the better part of a morning, to a local Japanese tourism office in Seattle.
Obviously, rolling blackouts and food shortages and radioactive fallout from catastrophic failure at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Daiichi meant that we did not go to Japan for this vacation. I have waited a long time to go to Japan, and I will have to wait some more. 
When I was a little kid and still believed in the possibility that the world was a very magical place, I used to imagine that nothing happened outside of what I could currently see and experience. If people went out of view, they stopped existing. Sometimes this was kind of a cool idea, because it meant that I did not need to worry about missing interesting things. Other times, this was a very scary idea, especially when my parents took me to stay at my grandparent’s house while they went out of town. I do remember wondering if places that I had never been actually existed, or if they would be conjured up just before I arrived.
One of the many side effects of being a parent is sometimes phrases get stuck in your head  from books and movies and books-on-tape enjoyed by your children when they were young.  My oldest (now an adult) loved Thomas the Tank Engine, and I can hear in my head, “A change is as good as a rest!” whenever I think about vacation planning.  I don’t think we travel to rest up.  I think we do it to get out of our ruts.
People closest to me know that this moving-to-New-York-thing has been a bit of a long, bad vacation.  A number of things have not worked out how we expected, and I find myself living in a spooky and lonely rural/suburban town for which there are no freeway exit signs, as if living here means getting away from it all, whether or not you want to get away from it all. I do not have all of my clothes or books or sewing supplies.  In early July I took a road trip, across the U.S., which ended with moving in to a furnished apartment. From there we moved to a furnished house. In the summer there were days when I had so much trouble getting going that I would sometimes get back in bed, fully clothed, at mid-day. The pets thought it made perfect sense. It was more of a function of needing a place to sit in a small apartment than a sign of suffering, but I did do it more than once.  These days I have too much to do.
That I am ready for a vacation means that this is where I live: amongst the long drives to everywhere, the deer, and the spooky water which goes to the faucets in Manhattan.   Right now, I am planning a trip to Barcelona in a few weeks. Only my youngest son will be able to come along, but the Bacon Provider has reason to go there for work and it sounds pretty interesting to me. I have never been to Spain.  Those magical people better get to work building Barcelona before I get there.