Friday, August 10, 2007

On Falling Off The Wagon

Two things happened to me yesterday--I experienced age discrimination for the first time, and I fell off the wagon after ten years' abstinence.

Twice a year, my job demands I visit Bethesda, Maryland--home to the National Institutes of Health. It gives me an opportunity to interact with my fifteen peers from around the country. But it's also a logistical nightmare--because of Tribble.

Now that my little Manx cat is over twenty and incredibly frail, leaving her when I travel presents problems. My vet does not usually offer boarding services although he has occasionally accommodated me. I try not to abuse him.

The easiest thing on a practical level would be to leave her at home and ask someone to check on her twice a day. But I have an unreasonable fear of leaving her there and having her die while I'm away. Every day when I return home from work, I have to steel myself to the possibility that I'll find her tiny cold body inside. I wouldn't want someone else to find her that way, and I wouldn't want to learn she died during the time I was out of state. I know it's irrational, but that's the definition of irrational--a fear that defies logic.

So, I've been boarding the three cats each time I traipse off to Bethesda--at a cost of $50 a day. It would be cheaper to leave Bob and Dinah at home, but I think Tribble does better surrounded by her homeboys.

Yesterday, I learned that Petsmart is now offering boarding services. There's a Petsmart on my way to the airport, which would save me nearly an hour in the round trip to my current kennel. I picked up the phone and called Petsmart to make a reservation for three nights in September.

Everything went fine until I gave Trib's age. The young woman taking the reservation was noticeably shocked. "Oh, we're not set up to give medication," she said.

"No problem," I replied. "Tribble isn't on any medication."

She paused. "We'll need a list of her health issues."

"Outside of drinking a lot of water, she has no health issues," I responded. Before she could jump in, I added, "I've already had her checked. She isn't diabetic."

"Just a minute, please." Without waiting for me to agree, she put me on hold. I waited for about three minutes for her to return. Since I was scheduled to be out of the office today, I was trying to finish a grant application before going home yesterday.

"I'm sorry," her voice made me jump. "We won't be able to board Tribble."

Of course, I asked to speak to the supervisor who had just discriminated against my little girl. Yes, I acknowledged to the supervisor, there was a distinct possibility that Trib might pick those three days out of the more than eight thousand she's been alive to shuffle off to glory. I was prepared for that eventuality.

Would I be willing to let them talk to my vet? Of course.

I didn't even argue when they asked to examine Tribble before mid-September. I said I'd be happy to bring her by for an audition. The supervisor reluctantly accepted the reservation.

Satisfied that I'd just simplified my life, I went back to writing my grant. As grants go, it's a small one, but it's dear to my heart. It's an epidemiologic and ethnographic study of the "cheese" heroin epidemic in the Dallas area. Twenty-four teenagers have now died from mixing black tar heroin with over-the-counter medication. The kids have mostly been Hispanic.

My cell phone rang. It was the Petsmart supervisor. The store manager had made the decision NOT to accept my three cats for boarding. My request to speak to the manager was rebuffed. Tribble and I were victims of age discrimination.

The rest of the day didn't go any better. It was nearly 7:30 PM before I was able to upload the grant to the university's internal grants management system. Grants Management will spend the day today obtaining all the requisite signatures before sending the grant off to Bethesda.

On my way home, I swung by my eye doctor's office where they'd left four boxes of contact lenses in their mailbox for me to pick up. That's when temptation hit.

Ahead of me stood the golden arches.

A decade ago, I'd sworn off fast food. I've mostly kept that oath--with a couple of exceptions. I still eat Long John Silver's fish fillets and, once in a great while, I'll eat a hard taco from Taco Bell. But I've avoided Mickey D's with a steely resolve that has frankly surprised even me.

Like most addicts who fall off the wagon, I yielded to a sudden, impulsive act. Before I could repeat my mantra, "Remember your arteries," I was in the drive-thru line ordering a fish fillet sandwich and . . . a small french fry.

In the last ten years, I've dreamed of McDonald's golden, salty french fries.

As I drove toward my home, I nibbled on the fresh, hot fries.

S-H-O-C-K!!! They weren't as good as my memory. I know they've changed the recipe in the ensuing years, but OMG. Here I'd been fantasizing about them for years and I didn't even want to finish the little bag. By the time I got home, I was happy to throw the rest of the fries and the fish sandwich away.

I guess it's true. You CAN'T go home again.

Unless, of course, you're Tribble. Then you can't LEAVE home.


Tena said...

Hi Maya,

I just found your blog and enjoyed reading your post about your aging kitty. I can relate to the boarding situation. I no longer have a cat but I do have two German shepherd dogs. One of them was a rescue and is sensitive and has separation "issues." The woman who usually boards my dogs, Saint Phyllis, as I call her, has moved to a new home that's about two hours from where we live. You guessed it: on the road again. It's worth the peace of mind knowing Phyllis will treat my dogs as her own. They get to swim in her pond and she lets them sleep in her guest room.

Who spoiled my dogs??



B.E. Sanderson said...

Poor Tribble. Stupid Petsmart. I hope you find someplace nice to board her while you're away.

Ah, McDonalds. I used to love them, too, but I can't eat their food any more. Aside from the fact they screwed up the most perfect french fries ever, their burgers don't sit well with my stomach any more. The other day I broke down and bought one of their shakes, and they'd even ruined those. *sigh* Thank goodness for Wendy's.

Maya Reynolds said...

Tena: Thanks for stopping by.

What we don't do for our aging pets. I have to admit I'm tempted to change the cats' names, lower Trib's age and try another Petsmart. Is that evil or what?


Maya Reynolds said...

Beth: I'm so glad I had my slip. Now I can stop fantasizing about those perfect french fries.


Maria Zannini said...

Petsmart is just trying to protect themselves from lawsuits. They don't want to run the risk of someone blaming them if an aged pet dies while in their care.

They kind of gave me the evil eye when I left my Australian shepherd (almost 14) recently. But the old girl looks good for her age and is in remarkable health.

I wish we lived closer, Maya. I'd be happy to look in on your kids. If you ever get in a real bind, let me know. We'll figure something out.


Tena said...

You said: "I have to admit I'm tempted to change the cats' names, lower Trib's age and try another Petsmart. Is that evil or what?"

I say: Hey, a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do. Who could blame you?

Gina Black said...

We were just out of the country for two weeks and hired (bonded) pet people who came in once a day and took care of the kitties (Lion is 20, Pooh a rather overweight 10). They also brought in the mail, watered the plants, etc.

That worked great for us. Lion would be totally miserable to be out of his familiar setting (he is getting a bit ga-ga with age) and Pooh . . . well, he's a cat of very little brain (it's all in his girth) and he's best in his own environment too. Where I live that wasn't cheap, but it was better than boarding them and since boarding plants isn't an option that worked well too.

Maya Reynolds said...

Maria: Thanks for the offer, but I have friends and neighbors who would also drop in and check on her if I asked. And as Gina said, I could use a pet sitter.

Tribble is a VERY sociable animal. My vet says that this is a trait of calico cats; I've wondered whether her not having a tail attracted so much attention that she became sociable.

Unlike my other cats, boarding has never stressed her. She likes having people around. She has this funny way of yowling in a questioning way almost like, "Excuse me, but we have a problem here." Whenever I hear it, I ask, "What's the matter?" and she leads me to her water bowl, the front door, the kitchen or bumps my knee so I'll pick her up and pet her. In boarding situations, I'm always asked, "Did you know she has a way of asking to be petted?." Duh, no, I never noticed.

I can't stand the idea of her dying alone in the house. I want her to be able to hear activity of people around her. And I don't want a friend of mine finding her dead body.

Maya Reynolds said...

Tena: It's mostly about my irritation over the arbitrary decision by Petsmart. I'll probably just take her to her regular kennel, which--since they do not have Sunday hours--will cost me an additional $50 to board the cats on Saturday night.

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm with Tena: lie. You're a fiction writer, right? Doodly do what you muddly must.

It wasn't the food that drove me away from fast food restaurants, although I grant you the quality has plummeted. It was the service, which has plummeted even more.