D. E. Larsen, DVM
Many dogs and cats hate to go to the veterinary clinic. This is probably a learned experience. Clinic staff makes every effort to make the visit enjoyable, but something unfavorable happens sooner or later. They get a shot, or they are forced to take a pill. Worse still, they are thrown in a kennel and left for God knows what.
Those memories are always present. Just ask a cat owner what happens when they get the cat carrier out of the closet. The cat hides in the deepest crevice, and it takes them forever to get him into the carrier. It makes no difference how one disguises the process of getting the carrier out, the cat seems to know what we are going to do before we do.
Dogs are easier to trick because they love to ride in the car. But when the car turns toward the clinic, the dog is looking for someplace to hide. Some do a better job of hiding better than others.
One good example is Rocky. Rocky was a little short-legged dog, probably part Dachshund. He was black and tan and had the personality traits of a Dachshund, always thinking he was the biggest dog on the block. Rocky belonged to an old man, Henry, who tended to drink a lot. A couple of large neighbor dogs chewed up Rocky one day. His wounds were severe. He lost a lot of skin and some muscle over his back and right hip. He was in the clinic for several days following his initial wound treatment. After surgery, Rocky had to come back to the clinic every two days to treat his wounds.
After a couple of trips to the clinic, Rocky had the routine down. After that, when Henry would pull up to the clinic, Rocky would dive under the car seat. It became a struggle to dig him out from under the seat. Finally, we learned that if Henry would call when he was on his way and park over at Safeway. Jolene would meet him there and quickly open the car door and grab Rocky before he could get under the seat. One day Henry was too drunk to get Rocky to the clinic, and his wounds were overdue for treatment. Jolene accompanied me to Henry’s apartment to pick up Rocky. The look on Rocky’s face when we walked into his apartment. “Oh no, now they know where I live,” must have been what he was thinking.
Another example was a little brown hound pup. On his very first trip to the clinic, his owner had trouble getting through the door. The reception room was packed with people. He stood in the open doorway with the pup on a leash for a short time and finally found a spot where he and the puppy could fit. As he started to move toward the open place, he let the door close. The pup was slow to move and was not entirely through the doorway.
A loud “Yip” was heard when the door closed on the tip of the pup’s tail. Luckily, there was not any damage to the tail. The damage was to the pup’s physic. On the next trip to the clinic, 4 weeks later, the puppy balked at the door. Finally, the owner had to pick him up and carry him into the clinic. The pup continued to grow, of course, and soon was too large to pick up. Finally, it got to the point where it was easier to take care of simple things in the car than fight getting him through the door. For more severe visits, we found that he would come through the back door with no problem.
Erma talked with me about spaying or neutering their barn cats. These cats were strictly barn cats and close to being feral. They didn’t know what sex they were because the cats were so skittish that they were never handled.
“Erma, if you get them in a carrier, just bring them into the clinic,” I said. “We will be able to get to them at some point, it might take a day or two, but that will only help tame them down a little.”
It was probably a few weeks from that conversation that Bob and Erma managed to get the two cats into a box. With the cardboard box seemingly secured, Erma loaded the box, with the cats, into the pickup.
Of course, these two cats had never been off the farm. They probably had seldom been out of the large old barn that they call home. The barn offered them everything they needed in life.
Besides the food and water delivered by Erma daily, there were more mice than any ten cats could catch in a lifetime. Birds would routinely fly into the barn to clean any spare grain from the managers or the floor. These always presented a challenge to the young cats. But cats thrive on a challenge. The scavenging birds were literally risking life and limb for their occasional morsel of cracked corn.
These two cats were obviously terrified at being in a box. Then taken from their barn, and placed in the pickup. When Erma gets in the truck and starts it up, The box rattles a little. She speaks in an attempt to settle the cats as she secured the box with her right arm.
Of course, the box’s hysteria only increases as the pickup pulls onto the highway and picks up speed. Now distressed yowls are coming from the box, and the box rattles even more. Again, Erma attempts to settle the troops. They were having none of it.
They are franticly scratching and digging at the soft cardboard. A hole appears at an upper corner of the box. With a little more scratching, a head pops out of the hole. The world is zipping by at an unfathomable speed, pure panic happens now. The cat springs from the box, immediately followed by his companion.
Making every effort to escape the confines of this carriage to hell, they start their circles around the cab of the truck. They begin frantic laps around the inside of the pickup cab. Around and around they run, desperate for an escape route. Across the dashboard, then the back of the seat, behind Erma’s head, and back to the dashboard. The speed of the circuit increases with every lap.
Just precisely what went on then is lost to history. But finally, the pickup runs off the road on a slight curve. It runs down a hill at near highway speed and slams into a tree. The doors fly open, and the cats have considered their mission accomplished. They make their escape.
With luck, Erma was secured with a seat belt, so she escaped significant injury. She did have a severely sprained wrist. The pickup did not fare so well. Being an older farm truck, the insurance folks were quick to declare it totaled.
Bob and Erma made multiple trips to the site of the accident, and they were able to find and capture one of the cats. They brought her to the clinic. She stayed for a spay. A young female, she would have been increasing the cat population of the barn soon. Staying in the clinic for several days following surgery allowed her to tame down. But she was delighted to return to her barn.
The second cat was long gone. None of the nearby houses had seen him. I would guess they probably should have been looking for him a couple of miles to the East.