My cat clinic was designed out of our one car garage. I enjoyed practicing veterinary medicine at home. In our college town, I met all types of clients and cats. One former professor and his wife interviewed me prior to purchasing two Maine coon kittens. Students with limited budgets came in frequently. I did volunteer exams for the local shelter when cats were adopted. The university’s veterinary teaching hospital referred clients to me. I researched diseases, presented lectures and wrote for journals.
Besides being a feline-exclusive practitioner, at the time I was also a junior high school science teacher. Because I worked two careers at the same time, I rarely had the chance to spend time with my friends in the teachers’ lounge. Occasionally, I ate my lunch there and listened to the school chatter.
One afternoon in the clinic, a college student carried a precious little kitten into the exam room for a physical, lab work, de-worming and a first vaccination. Ashley was clearly thrilled to have her first pet, an adorable black and white tuxedo boy. He didn’t have a name yet, and Ashley was concerned that she couldn’t come up with a name for her new best pal. I explained that sometimes cats have to tell you their names, usually within a week.
As Ashley was checking out, she spied a photo on the bulletin board of my husband holding our enormous tuxedo cat very similar in pattern, if not in size, to her kitty. She asked who they were. I explained that the photo was of my husband, Earl, and our twenty-pound cat, Alexander. A light bulb seemed to light up in Ashley’s head. She said, “Earl? Hmmmmm. Earl!” And so the tiny kitty became Earl.
A few weeks later, Ashley and her boyfriend brought Earl in with a fishhook stuck in his lip. Fixing it was not rocket science, but it did involve general anesthesia. I explained to Ashley that since Earl was now big enough, it would be safe to neuter him at the same time, and save him another round of anesthesia in a few months, not to mention a few bucks for her. Ashley agreed, and Earl went to surgery to remove the fishhook as well as his ability to reproduce.
The day after Earl’s run-in with the fishhook, the teachers’ lounge was relatively full at lunchtime. A colleague asked what was going on in my life. I replied, “Well, I neutered Earl yesterday.” Silence enveloped the room like a shroud. Quizzical heads turned my way. One teacher said, “That’s nice, Mary.” I left the rest to their imaginations as the room erupted in laughter.
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