Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Part VI of My Christmas Story

I'd pulled Dinah out of a thunderstorm and into my house. Given her previous reluctance to be touched, she was strangely passive in my arms. I ran my hands over her wet fur and screamed in horror.

On the back of her head, beginning at the base of the right ear was an enormous wound. It looked as though someone had taken an ice cream scoop and just scraped out everything--all the way down to the leather of her skull. The canyon left behind was red and oozing. The walls of the pit looked like layers of lasagna: multiple stratums of fur, dermis, and muscle.

I'd never seen anything so awful on a live animal, and I was having trouble making sense of what I was seeing. No wonder Dinah was so quiet; she was probably in shock.

Fortunately, my long experience as a manager kicked in. When faced with a huge snarly ball of string with no beginning or end, you need to take a scissors, cut a single strand and begin unwinding. I left the cat on the counter and went to find dry cloths with which to dry her.

I also brought an electric space heater into the bathroom with me and a couple of blankets. I wanted to get her warm as quickly as possible.

She remained apathetic under my ministrations; it was both sad and creepy. While I worked, I tried to decide on a next step.

I've lived with cats for many years and have come to respect their fierce stamina and unexpected vulnerability. Felines are finely tuned creatures. Loud noises and unscheduled interruptions are much harder on them than on other animals. If Dinah wasn't in shock already, she was teetering on the narrow edge. A lot of activity was probably a mistake.

By the time I had her mostly dry, I'd decided to leave her alone in the dark, quiet bathroom for a while and see what happened. She might die, but I didn't want to make things worse by overwhelming her fragile system.

I put her on the pile of blankets on the floor with the heater nearby. I filled a bowl with the smelliest wet catfood I could find: Fancy Feast cod, sole and shrimp. As I left the bathroom, I turned off the lights and closed the door.

Back in my bedroom, Bob was still under my four-poster. The lightning had stopped, but it was still pouring outdoors. He was so preoccupied with the weather, he'd missed our new arrival.

I climbed into the bed, but sleep wouldn't come. My mind couldn't stop whirling. I wasn't sure I'd done the right thing by leaving her on her own. I didn't want her to die afraid and alone.

I kept trying to come up with an explanation for what had happened to her. The wound was in the shape of a teardrop--wide at one end and narrow at the other. The wide end was about two and a half inches in diameter, the narrow end tapered to nothing.

Forty minutes later, the only answer that seemed to make sense was that she had climbed up under the hood of a car and was still there when the driver started the vehicle. Twenty years earlier, I'd had a cat who did exactly that. When I found him, he was paralyzed, blind, deaf, and unable to taste or smell.

If Dinah was still alive, what should I do next? I could take her to the emergency vet, but I knew that trip would cost a minimum of $750, more likely $1,000.

I finally fell asleep around 5:20 AM.

Bob woke me at 7:30. I leaped out of bed and rushed to let him out the back door. The rain had stopped, and he didn't balk at going out.

I stood outside the bathroom and listened, but couldn't hear a thing. I took a deep breath and opened the door.

More later ...

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