48: The Veterinarian’s Assistant

48: The Veterinarian’s Assistant

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Cat Did That!

The Veterinarian’s Assistant

When a cat chooses to be friendly, it’s a big deal, because a cat is picky.

~Mike Deupree

Our daughter, Melissa, first spotted the kitten suckling on its dead mother as we drove by the barn. “Stop,” she said. “Maybe I can catch it.”

She jumped out of the pickup and snuck over to the orphan. The kitten struggled as she pulled it from its mother’s stilled body but calmed as soon as she cradled it between her palms. Glenn, my husband and a veterinarian, told her, “It can’t be more than that three and a half or four weeks old. Let’s take her back to the house. She needs a bellyful of milk.”

Later that afternoon, after a couple of feedings, the young kitten gained enough strength to go outside with us. She crawled at our feet as we sat on the grass in the sun until Glenn accidentally stepped on her tail with the tip of his cowboy boot. Screeching, she ran off beneath dense shrubbery, hiding there beyond the reach of our arms.

Melissa knelt down, calling, “Come back, little kitten. Come back, Little Grey,” but to no avail. Glenn felt worse than terrible. Melissa was bereft. “If she doesn’t come out, the coyotes will get her.”

Her dad comforted her. “If we’re quiet, she may come out on her own.”

Within a short time, the kitten crawled out and, to our amazement, clambered up Glenn’s pant leg, up his chest, and all the way to his chin. Tapping her paw against his jaw, she looked him directly in the eyes, and squeaked a mew as if saying, “I know you didn’t mean to step on me.”

Stroking her, he told her, “You, little one, have a warm heart. I can tell you forgive me.”

That’s the day that Little Grey endeared herself to our family. It wasn’t long before she grew into a shiny-eyed kitten that frolicked through our home. When friends visited, she’d rub against their ankles, purring affectionate hellos until they marveled, “This is the most people-loving kitten we’ve ever seen.” Amongst the other pets in our household, however, our newcomer strode with her head high, her whiskers twitching with attitude as if she alone had regal status.

On Saturdays, our daughter helped at my husband’s clinic. She wouldn’t go without Little Grey, so the kitten always rode in the car with us cuddled up on Melissa’s lap. At the clinic, “our princess” lay atop a tall counter greeting clients as they entered the waiting room with their pets to see Dr. Glenn. As she matured into an adult, most acknowledged our official greeter by name, saying, “Hey, Little Grey, how’s it going this morning?” She’d either mew softly or reach out with a gentle paw and tap them on the arm. Our people-loving cat added a warm touch to the clinic.

In contrast to Little Grey’s love for people, she was a choosy greeter when it came to the steady stream of animal patients. If a rambunctious Lab or a fussing lap dog spotted her and barked or yapped, our princess looked down on them from the safety of the counter, her gold eyes glowering in an unblinking stare. If the dog stepped closer, she growled, flattening her ears and flicking her pencil-thin tail, her way to remind all dogs to keep their distance.

One evening after Melissa left home for college, Glenn walked through the door of our home with a basket containing a red-and-white Jack Russell terrier named Mitchell. The owner had seen Mitchell in the fields with a rat hanging from his mouth, probably one dying from the effects of rodent control. Apparently Mitchell had ingested it and the poison ravaged his body: his stiffened limbs jerked, eyes twitched and body quivered. To control convulsions, Glenn hooked him up to IV fluids and administered sedation.

Little Grey must have heard the dog’s whimpers because she stalked into the room, one hesitant step at a time, her angular face peeking from behind chair legs, her nose sniffing, as she approached the blanket-lined basket. Then her ears flattened. A dog! She hissed, snubbing our ill patient, and left the room grumbling, her dark grey nose in the air as she headed for the living room to curl up on the couch.

After monitoring Mitchell well into the night, Glenn finally climbed into bed, setting the alarm to awaken him every hour to assess the little dog’s progress. After the three o’clock check, he lamented, “I’m not sure the little guy’s going make it. I can’t keep him warm enough.”

At four, he called me downstairs. I feared the worst as I walked into the room, yet Glenn smiled, and said, “The vet’s helper is here.” I thought he was referring to me. But when I looked in the box, I found Little Grey, who had once been on the cusp of death herself, snuggled up close to the terrier, her front and back legs encircling him. Purring compassionately, she glanced up at us.

I looked at my husband, “Can you believe this?”

He smiled. “Wait until we tell Melissa about our new assistant.”

As we dimmed the light, Little Grey laid her head on Mitchell’s wire-haired back and we returned to bed knowing that we had another healer on our veterinary team.

~Karen Baker

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