Liam had taken the morning off as I had to make it in for work at 8:30am, since there was no one available to cover those first few morning hours on reception, I had left work at 10:00am, grabbed my coat and taken the tube, reaching East Putney only twenty minutes later. As I walked out from the station, the sun was more than shining - it was positively beaming down on me - and I hoped it was the sign of a good omen.
The animal hospital wasn't far from the station, and I was glad for the walk along Putney high street to clear my head, it was nice to be in there at a strange hour, amongst different types of people - the ones I usually miss from being at work.
Nervous wasn't the word. Desperate was more accurate.
'Don't worry.' Liam said as I reached him. 'You look petrified! You know what? If it doesn't work today - we have a back up.'
That was one thing at least.
'I'm okay. But thanks for bringing her over...' I replied softly, and then I leant down until those two gleaming black eyes were level with mine. 'Come on then, girl.'
I picked up the cat carrier and kissed Liam goodbye before walking towards the automatic glass doors.
Inside Putney RSPCA Animal Hospital, it was organised chaos. There were (rather unsurprisingly) all kinds of animals, being held on leads, in boxes, cages and on the knees of their worried-looking owners. I was rather amused, despite the situation, to see how many people in that waiting room did in fact resemble the animal they'd arrived here with. (Whether that meant I was small, black and furry, was quite another thing.)
I approached the reception, and gave my name to the lady dressed in green overalls behind the counter. She nodded and smiled at me, before ushering me to take a seat in the crowded waiting room. Stepping over one of the biggest dogs I had ever seen, I lifted Bess high above my head, partly because I didn't want her to get worked up about the dogs, and partly because the huge animal had started sitting up to sniff her. I placed her in the corner, so she didn't have to see the Chihuahua opposite, or the yappy Westie to it's right who just wouldn't stop barking. I realised after about five minutes that there were, in fact, loads of dogs in this waiting room. And then I noticed the large black and white sign on the opposite side of the room, which read 'CATS AND SMALL ANIMALS'.
Back over the enormous dog (bear?) that was still sprawled out across the pathway, we went, and into the much quieter area of 'Cats and Small Animals'. It was a bit like Narnia. No, it wasn't, really. But there was definitely no sniffing, barking, yelping, scratching or drooling. Hurrah.
There was one other girl sitting alone on the bench, with her cat placed on the floor by her feet. As I walked over, looking relieved, she smiled, and leant forward immediately to talk to me.
'Much quieter over here, isn't it!?' The girl said cheerily as I walked over. She was roughly my age, perhaps a little younger, and had wide expressive eyes and a open face. Instantly I connected with her, mainly because she was willing to talk to a complete stranger (like I do), but also because she had made me feel at ease in a situation where I was far from it.
'Ahhhh... Is that your baby?' She leant over and peered in at Bess. 'She's beautiful. Look at her silky fur. What's her name?'
'Bess.' I replied. And perhaps, as a rather unnecessary after thought I added, 'I named her after my Great Grandmother.'
'This is Gypsy, but we also call her Gyps. An actual gypsy woman gave her to us when she was a kitten.' The girl said. When she spoke, she waved her hands about a lot. I do that too.
'That's so sweet.' I replied, looking through the bars at her huge black and white cat, with a little black dot on her nose.
'Yes, well. The gypsy said she would have to drown her if they couldn't find a home for her, so we took her in at once.' The girl looked serious and thoughtful for a moment, before going on to ask me question after question about why we were here, what had happened at the other vets, how the prices for vets fees are just terrible and finally how she was here today because she had found a lump on Gypsy's back. Gypsy, I'd just found out, was nearly fourteen, and the second eldest of her four cats.
I was grateful for this chatty girl who loved cats. But before long, a vet walked out into the corridor and called Bess' name. I quickly wished the girl- and Gypsy- good luck, before picking up Bess and her three x-rays (which I had brought with me), and followed the vet into one of the side rooms.
The room was larger than the one we had waited in at the vets last week. The lady who had ushered me in, was indeed the vet, and she introduced herself as Juliet. Juliet had a sparkle in her eyes, and sounded ever-so posh, like she might have had horses and a swimming pool at home. She was matter of fact, but kind, because she put me at ease right away by joking about how they (meaning the other vets) might have given Bess a pink bandage, as it looked like she supported Manchester City football team with the sky blue one she had on now. I laughed, and said it might well be appropriate as she was born in south Manchester... Juliet took the x-rays out of the brown envelope and got to looking at them right away on the light box.
Alongside Juliet was a friendly-looking man in his late twenties. He was the veterinary nurse assisting the vet. He beamed at me, and I noticed how lovely his teeth looked when he smiled.
'It must have been a nightmare week for you. But don't look so worried, you can relax now! Bess is in safe hands.' He said as he helped me lift her carrier onto the examination table.
'Oh yes.' Juliet piped up. 'It's a bad break, and the bone is quite splintered. I really wouldn't recommend any other kind of operation, than one to insert a plate along the bone. Of course, there is always the option of amputation, but I really think we can fix her leg without such drastic measures.'
'And you can do the operation for her, here, at the RSPCA?' I asked, tentatively, shuffling from one foot to the other, expecting the worst.
'No problem. Now, we are very upfront about payment here, and we don't mind talking about money. A lot of people who come to us haven't got much to spare, so we understand the need to be open. Obviously since we are a charity, we are able to subsidise the prices heavily for you, but you are on the higher side of our pay bracket... Let me see... An operation would be in the region of....'
She checked her computer for a moment.
'... £400 at most. That's everything included. Today's consultation, the operation, anaesthetic, a few overnight stays, and the after care to take the stitches out and future x-rays. It won't be any more than that.' She pulled a oh god this is a lot and I'm sorry face.
I nearly jumped over the examination table to kiss her. She would do it. I could find that sort of money - I mean, it wasn't nothing - it was still a lot - but it wasn't such a unimaginable amount as £1,700. I suddenly felt lightheaded.
'Lets do it. Oh, you have no idea how relieved I am that you can help her. I've been so worried about her, and I've felt like such an irresponsible parent for not taking out pet insurance...'
'Oh, don't be silly. Even I don't take out pet insurance for my cats. They can be so catchy, full of loop holes.'
I didn't like to point out at that point that she was a vet and could probably operate on them at home on the kitchen table, herself.
She was quick, matter of fact, as went through the details of the surgery. She mentioned how, if once they'd opened her leg, it looked worse than they'd originally thought - impossible to salvage - then they would do the best thing for Bess' future recovery and quality of life - even if that meant amputating the leg. I trusted her implicitly. So, is that it? I kept saying to her, over and over, hardly believing that they didn't want more money, and there were no more complicated matters than this.
'That's really it.' Juliet said, laughing. 'She will be fine, don't worry. Give us a ring tonight, to see if we managed to squeeze her in for the operation today - if not, she will definitely be done tomorrow. Plus, you can pop in to see her anytime you like during working hours over the next few days, if you miss her.'
'Thank you so much for looking after her.' I said, and I had never meant it more.
The smiley male nurse, who's name I had found out was Leandro, went to pick Bess out of her carrier to put her into the RSPCA cage with a soft green blanket, which he had prepared as Juliet had been talking to me.
'Do you want to give her a cuddle before you go?' Leandro asked, avoiding knocking her huge blue bandage on the sides of the carrier.
'Yes please.' I said, as I took her out of his arms, and kissed her velvety left ear. She flicked it, and growled a little at me, but I stroked her nose, and hoped she knew she was staying somewhere safe.
Thanking them both profusely and glancing one last look at Bess, I walked out of the calming white examination room and back into the manic reception area. As soon as the door clicked shut, I felt a wave of pure relief wash over me, and I sighed loudly, utterly oblivious to the yapping and general chatter of the waiting room around me. The most colossal grin spread right across my face, I couldn't help it and I didn't care if they all thought I was nuts. It was as if every worry, stress and seemingly unsolvable problem of the last week had left my aura, crying a little 'oh' of happiness.
I looked over to the 'Cats and Small Animals' section.
A couple were sitting together with a wicker cat basket on the chair next to them. Gypsy and her owner had gone. Shame, I thought, it would have been nice to take her phone number. I hoped that Gypsy's lump hadn't been anything too serious.
The lady sat with her partner was looking at me, and had seen my euphoric face as I'd walked out of the examination room with an empty cat carrier.
'Good news?!' She asked me.
'Yes.' I said, and beamed at her.
I'd learnt it was like being part of a club, having a cat. Everyone wants to help as your rationality goes out of the window and your heart takes over. Cat-owners (or rather, cat-lovers) all understand that pain you go through when the little animal you are so used to having around the house; who eats the chicken you'd left out for dinner, leaves muddy paw prints on the windowsill, or dead mice under your bed, falls ill, or has a nasty accident. You see, when she was no longer able to prppp when I walked through the front door or curl into a ball on my lap as I watch television, stretching her claws out and spiking me through the fabric of my jeans, I had realised the lengths I would go to, to make her better again.
|Bess, home after the operation with her shaved and stitched up leg.|
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