January 10, 2009

The Lion in Winter

Is there a worse feeling to have than that pit-of-your-stomach, gnawing anxiety that comes about when you suddenly realize that you know more than the "expert" you've come to see? Like when it dawns on you that the auto mechanic working on your Honda is pretty much clueless--you went there to get the steering checked out, but this guy seems a little preoccupied with your brake lights. Or a real estate agent who can't seem to remember the difference between a ranch and a condo. Thanks to the internet, we can increase our knowledge on any subject tenfold in a matter of hours--a little Google and some common sense gets you a long way these days--but let's be honest, we still need all those professionals in their fields. Which is why it's so disturbing to meet someone who seems pretty, well, far afield.

What I just described can certainly happen in America, so believe me when I say it can really happen in Macedonia. This country is tricky and I sometimes think this might be a harder post than some of the less-developed countries Peace Corps works in. Sure, in many respects things look and feel pretty Western around here, but as soon as you start believing that you're in trouble. The minute your expectations start rising you've set a course for disappointment. Or as a former PCV who served in our town wrote to us recently, "just beneath the surface over there it's Mad Max world."

I bring all this up because we recently took our kitten, Arye, to the local vet to get spayed. [Cue: Suspenseful music, followed by a spinning fun-house mirror image of a manically cackling, blood-spattered doctor.] No, really, he's actually a very nice man, but somewhere along the way Jillian and I turned to each other and said (out loud and in front of him--he doesn't speak any English), "This man doesn't know anything about cats!"

The vet station here is a rather cavernous structure, built in the mold of a 1950's insane asylum. This sounds weird until you realize that the vets here mostly service livestock--pets are extremely rare in Macedonia. In fact, when we first met the vet and told him about Arye he was genuinely puzzled. He sat in his black leather chair behind a disorderly stack of papers. The clock on his desk said it was 9:30; the one on the wall over his head read 7:15. It was around noon. He asked us: Why would anyone want a cat? And you let it inside?!? "There's more," we replied. "It sleeps with us. On our bed." He recoiled in horror.

After a few minor mishaps, such as us showing up at the vet station with the kitten at our appointed time only to find the place deserted, the surgery finally happened. Well, at the risk of sounding a bit crude or alarming, when the vet handed Arye back to us all I could think of was the scene from Dirty Dancing when the doctor is woken by his daughter in the middle of the night to help out Penny, the dancer who just had an illegal abortion performed by some sketchy character. Except we couldn't call Jerry Orbach for a second opinion.

Alright, before you click away from this page in disgust, I'll tell you that Arye really is fine. But this vet apparently doesn't understand the concept of "recovery time." No sooner had the last stitch been set than we were being pushed out the door with our pained, drugged kitten. Even worse, as we were leaving, the vet exclaimed (with genuine surprise in his voice) something to the effect of, "Wow! She has really small organs!"

So I spent the night not sleeping. Instead of resting peacefully in the wee hours I alternated between checking the pulse of our kitten and assuring Jillian that the six dozen ways she was envisioning Arye dying were all way off the mark. Things only got brighter the next day when our blood-shot eyes noticed blood in Arye's pee. Now Jillian was utterly convinced that the kitten had but hours to live. I went and asked the vet. "Normal," he said. Exact word. Hmmm...in my mind's eye I saw a teeter-totter. On one side sat this vet, smiling assuringly and asking (like he always does) all about California, or Florida, or cowboys and Indians--really, anything but our cat. On the other side were the twenty or so professional veterinary websites we'd consulted about spaying. Not much balance there, to say the least.

Ultimately, we consulted (via Jillian's mom) a vet back in San Diego and learned the probable cause of the kitten's pink pee. Not exactly "normal," but no big deal either and it cleared up in a matter of days. Arye has made a good recovery. She's back to her old self, allowing only for the e-collar she's still wearing to prevent her from licking her stitches. Jillian fashioned this out of a cardboard box and an old sock and Arye is now pretty easy to locate. Just follow the sound of cardboard scraping against whatever she's poking around in. This collar is a bit of a hassle at night when Arye tries to snuggle up on my neck--it's a sort if like cuddling with a box of Corn Flakes.

In a few days the stitches come out and we can bid a fond farewell to the vet, leaving him to his goats, cows and pigs who, I've heard, have enormous organs. But don't take my word for it. I'm no expert.

Royal cat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear kitty is okay! Love, Mom