Friday, January 08, 2010

Snowed In, Black & Blue

By 5 o'clock the next evening (Tuesday), I'm a wreck. I've spent the entire past day worrying about Gomez. Is it bad? How bad is it? It can't be that bad, right?

I barely see her all day Tuesday. I go to campus for a few hours of technology training, while Erin watches Eleanor. When I get back, we feed the babies, we eat lunch, the babies go down for a nap .... I try looking for Gomez in all the usual spots, but to no avail. She had spent Monday night under our bed. I could hear her moving and licking throughout the night. I didn't sleep well. I tried to stay in position, the way she likes me, with my arm curled just so, perfect for a small cat body to curl into my warmth in the middle of the night. In the morning I woke up tired, stiff, and restless, but she never came.

So by Tuesday afternoon, I'm getting worried. I understand that, if she's hurt, she's going to want to be alone to lick her wounds. But I need to see her, and make sure she's not looking worse than the day before. Plus, if I don't know where to find her or at least what area of the house she's in, how are we going to catch her to even get her to the vet? Keith is already leaving work early so he can get home, we (gently!) stuff her into the carrier and I can get her to the vet by 5 o'clock. We don't have a lot of time to spare, waiting for Gomez to grace us with her presence.

Erin and I are both in the kitchen, talking, and I think I hear Gomez's collar clinking softly in the basement. I look at Erin, and she hears it, too. I go to the basement, closing the door behind me. Again, I call for her and she comes to me. I love that cat. She is looking a lot better, and my heart soars. She's cleaned off all the blood, so the fur on her tail looks normal, but it's still bent at a funny angle. So what if Gomez's tail always has a kink from now on? I'll still love her!

I pet her and scratch behind her ears and tell her how wonderful she is. Then I give her the "good news" that we're taking her to the vet in a few hours to get checked out, so she'll feel better. As the word "vet" crosses my lips, she turns away and runs back under the couch.

How does she even know what that means?!? Our friend who runs the shelter where we first got Gomez comes to the house to give her vaccinations every year, so other getting spayed at 8 weeks or so, she's never been to the vet. But Beckett must have told her it was bad news, because she was off like a shot.

But at least I saw her, she was looking better, and I knew what part of the house she was in. I closed off the basement and went back upstairs. On second thought, I grabbed the cat carrier and took it back downstairs with treats in it. She came out again to sniff the carrier, and I started feeling better about our prospects for that evening.

By 5:30, I'm angrily texting Keith from the waiting room at the vet's. We've been sitting for a half-hour without even being shown into an exam room. Very frustrating when they gave me a hard time about being prompt for our appointment! Finally, we get shown into a room. I explain what happened—by this point, I've adopted my mom's theory that Gomez must have been playing with the stockings from below, because otherwise how could the stocking holder have landed on her tail? Or rather, I explain what we think happened, and that I'm certain her tail is hurt.

"I don't know if it's broken," I say, "but it's definitely cut. I think I saw flesh when she let me get close."

The vet's eyes widen. "Flesh?"

I shift uncomfortably. "Maybe not. Maybe I was wrong about that." This is my first indication that this appointment might not go as well as I'd hoped.

The vet and the assistant take Gomez in the back to cut away some of the fur and take a good look at the tail. The vet is back in short order, with bad news. She says that the tail is seriously lacerated. She's not sure if she will be able to suture it back together, or if she'll have to amputate.


I was completely shocked. I was so worried about whether it was broken or not, I never considered that the cut would be the worst part. Skin heals, right?

She said she would like to wait until the rest of the clients were gone, so she could take time to sedate Gomez (who was in a lot of pain during the exam) and get a closer look. If it looked like she could suture the tail, she would do it that night and I could take Gomez home the next morning (Wednesday). If she would have to amputate (amputate!) the tail, she wouldn't be able to do it until Thursday. She would call me that evening with the results.

I signed the paperwork for the sedation and left in a daze. I had told Keith I'd call him as soon as I knew what was going on, but I couldn't. I was relatively certain that, if I called and talked to him, I would cry. And I really didn't want to be driving home in the snow, bawling.

I walked in the kitchen while he was cooking dinner. Eleanor ran over and gave me a hug. Keith took one look at me and his eyes widened. "Where's the cat?" he immediately said.

It wasn't too much longer before the vet called to say that the cut was too deep, and she would have to amputate. They asked whether we wanted to bring her home on Wednesday morning and bring her back first thing Thursday for the surgery, or have her stay at the vet's until after surgery. I asked them to keep her, because I was too scared of her doing something else while she was home, and trying to catch her again.

The house felt so empty without her all day Wednesday and Thursday. I couldn't stop worrying about her. I kept wondering whether the outcome would have been different if I had brought her to the vet earlier. I asked Keith if I should pose that question to the vet, and he said, "No!"

What would it change, really? I wanted to hear that I did the right thing and it wouldn't have mattered, but what if that's not the answer I got? I'd rather live with not knowing than live with knowing I cost Gomez her tail. Besides, the stocking holder is already in the garage, in the Goodwill pile. This is a situation that I hope to never encounter again, so hearing what I should have done would not be useful knowledge.

The surgery was Thursday morning; the vet said they'd call in the morning and I could probably pick her up in the afternoon. I lasted until 11:40am, picturing all kinds of worst-case scenarios because they hadn't yet called, and finally called them. The receptionist confirmed that Gomez was out of surgery, it all went fine, and I could pick her up at 4 o'clock.

That was wonderful news, and my heart lifted a little. I just had to stare at the clock for 4 hours .... Eleanor and I arrived at the vet's at 3:53pm. After another long wait in reception (which I didn't mind so much, because I was pretty nervous about the "reveal"), we were ushered back into a room to see Gomez. The assistant brought her in, already in the carrier and set it on the table. Once she left, Eleanor and I peered in.

Gomez peered back. I don't know what I was expecting. That I wouldn't recognize her? She looked just like Gomez! From the front, anyway. From the back .... she's much more ... compact. The tail is just a little stub, now. We thought she'd have more tail than that, because the cut was much further down. But the vet explained sometimes there's issues with blood flow if you amputate too close to the injured area, so she wanted to be safe and cut the tail shorter to prevent any future problems.

I'm now sitting on the couch, typing. Gomez is curled up underneath the couch, refusing to come out. I think she's embarrassed by her restraint color and bandaged stump. But mostly by the collar. It's not very dignified. We did try taking it off for 30 seconds, and she immediately started attacking the stump. So, undignified though it is, it will stay on.

Now that I've finally poured out the whole entire saga (I know, this was way too long, but it was very cathartic for me. Thanks!), I'm going to bed. I will curl myself in the perfect position, on my side with my arm extended. Just right for holding a healing cat with a tail stump, should she decide to join me. I love that cat.

Photo courtesy of Keith, as nearly all photos are. The good ones, anyway.

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