A race to the vet late this past Saturday afternoon after one of our beloved cats, “Sparkle” tumbled off the back of the sofa where she had been sleeping and hit her head on the radiator. She meowed several times, more from shock than pain, the human version of “Ah!” She could not stand. Her head swayed from side to side on the spindle of her spine, like she was watching a tennis match.
Ken’s words froze me to the bone.
I turned the jets off the gas cook top where I was preparing dinner and ran into the living room while he pulled the sofa away from the wall. Sparkle was splayed out on the floor, still crying, scrambling to get up but unable to pull her legs together. I thought the worst. Of course. That is what I do.
After examining her for possible broken bones, I carefully gathered her up and placed her on the sofa. Her head still wobbled back and forth. After a few moments, she grew quiet, alert to my gentle stroking that was trying to reassure us both. We remained that way for several minutes, enough to make me hope that she would be okay, but then I noticed her eyes. Her head wasn’t swaying, but her eyeballs were switching back and forth instead, like the cartoons you see where the characters’ eyes are bouncing back and forth after having a piano dropped on their heads.
A telephone call, then a mad dash to the vet to use the emergency services I had chosen them for.
I do not usually drive fast, preferring to putter along with the crowd, but yesterday I slammed the hammer down in the left lane of the New York State Thruway, and cursed anyone who dared travel at less than the speed of sound.
I kept an iron grip on my thoughts, but unwelcome scenarios sneaked in. Did Sparkle have a stroke? Did some mysterious neurology in her brain misfire and cause her to fall? Was it a blood clot, like the one that felled her cousin, Bear, when he was only five years old? Were we racing to the vet only to stand sobbing while the vet plunged the final needle into her vein?
A line from a favorite film, “Thelma and Louise” blasted into my brain: “Drive, Louise, drive!” Reminding me to pay attention. You don’t wander off into fields of grief while driving hell for leather along the Thruway at over 80 MP. What if we were pulled over by a cop? Hopefully, one sympathetic to the love an animal. Will they fire off their sirens and lead the way through the traffic to Exit 12? Would we lose precious time by being pulled over?
I slowed to 75.
We arrived to an empty waiting room. Anything after 5:00pm was considered emergency hours, so it would cost $130 to walk in the door. I would have paid a thousand. They took Sparkle and bade us remain behind in the waiting room.
“What?” I said, watching her disappear through the mysterious door. “We can’t go in with her?”
“In a moment,” they counseled. “The vet will check her first.”
“But we want to be there too,” I said. “Doesn’t the vet want to know from us what happened?”
They glanced at each other. Another nut job crazy pet owner.
After a moment, a technician came and escorted us to the exam room where Sparkle peered from her crate. The vet, a young woman, entered the room and introduced herself.
“I have already examined her quickly,” she assured us. “She seems to be okay, but let’s take her out and get a closer look.”
I gently pulled Sparkle from her nest of clean towels. She stood up and looked around, then perked up at something she saw through the window.
She was standing.
“Let’s see if she can walk around a little,” the vet suggested, and placed her on the floor. Sparkle walked around, sniffing, then scraped her face on the table leg to leave her scent, then wandered over to Ken and rubbed his knees with her paws, an endearing behavior she does to lay claim to us every day. We watched for several moments. Her eyes stayed where they belonged; front and center.
“She seems okay,” the vet continued. “But I would like to keep her overnight, just in case. If she is having seizures, we can treat her right away. I will call you if there are any problems during the night.”
We agreed. Kissed her goodnight. I even pulled off my fleece jacket and handed it to the vet.
“Please put this in the crate with her,” I implored “It might comfort her in a strange place.”
It really was to comfort me.
“Fine,” the vet smiled. Obviously, she has seen this before.
Ken and I drove home in silence. In hope.
I called later in the evening.
“She seems fine,” they answered. “What a mush! She is charming everyone in the back room, so she is getting lots of attention. We are really loving on her!”
We picked her up early Sunday morning. The vet pronounced her a “normal, healthy cat!” And added:
“As a cat owner, you probably already know cats don’t always land on their feet. Maybe she hit behind her ear when she fell off the couch while asleep, and disturbed her inner ear, which would cause the nystagmus you saw. ”
Or as Ken said, “She had her bell rung!”
But, the vet continued, “She seems fine. Take her home!”
Which is where she is now, dozing on the fleece blanket covering my lap as I write this.
So… prayers are heard at 80 mph. Nice to know.