Everyone has a most embarrassing story they could tell. Some choose to share it, some don’t. I personally don’t have a problem airing most dirty laundry, because sometimes the stinkiest stuff is the funniest.
But I wonder about our furry little companions like cats and dogs. If they could talk, would they be swapping tales or sitting modest and mute, merely wagging and swishing? I bet they’d be just like us, laughing at the once unhumorous moments in their lives.
Some things though, whether human or animal, are just too mortifying to share. I’m talking embarrassment on entirely new levels. Catastrophic humiliation. And for whatever reason, those types of moments tend to revolve around the most intimate and vulnerable things, like our bare bodies and their more humble parts.
I won’t share my own bodily “most embarrassing” because I choose not to use it, but lose it. (In fact, until now it basically was lost, forgotten like the adolescence in which it occurred. Now I’m trying not to remember the hot shades of red associated with that ancient assault on my dignity.)
But not so for my cat Toby. He is fair game to tell tales on, because presumably cats can’t think like humans, so they have no concept of embarrassment. Were he capable of understanding, I’m sure I’d have a set of claws pressed close to my neck as a nasty little voice from behind hissed, “Talk, and you die …”
However, as there is no “devil Toby” on my back prodding me unto prudence, it is safe to proceed with what I’m sure is Toby’s most embarrassing moment. It also happens to be a rather embarrassing moment for me and one in which my own cognitive processing skills could be called into question.
There comes a day in most household cats’ lives in which they go into a crate “whole” and come out of that same crate hours later a bit, well, less than whole. Victims of “the surgery” (Enter foreboding music), they are forever altered by the snip and clip, never to reproduce again. (Enter a “hooray!” from the female felines, and a “damn you!” from the males, probably with equal exuberance)
Being a first time cat owner on my own as an adult, I was ever the worried cat mom about this first experience for both of us. I even asked a few people to pray that all went well. Of course it did, with the exception that a time frame had not been given in the detailed post-op instructions in which it was good to let Toby out of the crate. I waited an hour, and wished I had waited longer because he was like a junkie on the dark side of the moon. Surely he was hallucinating, and the incomprehensible loss of his hind legs only added to the fear factor.
Therefore, with cage open, Toby exited like a drunken greyhound who’s only claim to fame was winning a round of ping-pong, his body being the ball. Once I caught my paranoid schizophrenic from frantic flopping and banging around on all kinds of things that had never before seemed dangerous, I set him on the bed and lay down beside him, petting to soothe and calm.
Exhausted, Toby literally dropped his face on the bed like someone passing out into a bowl of food. All splat, flat, pooped kitty cat. Rough day for both of us for sure. But the best (or worst) is yet to come, for sometime after Toby had rested, regained use of his legs, ate and drank a little, I began to re-read the post-op instructions. I became concerned when I read about signs for and causes of infection, taking careful note that litter and debris from the floor can often get into the wound site and cause infection. I was instructed to keep the incision area “clean and free of debris”, to which I promptly set about doing like any caring and responsible pet owner.
Still being under the effects of anesthesia, Toby was entirely still and pliable as I laid him on his back and moved the fur around in search of threatening intruders to his Netherlands. I spotted a culprit on his “tiny Toby” and proceeded to pluck it off. It appeared to be one of those clear crystals from the crystal cat litter I’d been happily using for a while. However, as the ginger approach to debris removal proved more challenging that originally thought, I pulled it with more force, wondering why it was stuck to his fur so well. As I pulled the second time it separated from his “tiny Toby” but had a curious string-like thing attached to it.
Puzzled, I peered closer and pulled just a little more. Suddenly it dawned on me that what I held in my tugging fingertips was no lingering piece of cat litter, but the inner part of “tiny Toby”, the one that should never ever be seen let alone touched, let alone pulled. An OMG moment if ever there was one to be had. An utterly mortifying moment as I realized that I had just yanked my kitty’s thingamajig out and possibly would’ve taken it clean off. Oh sweet Jesus, the thought of dismembering my cat was too much to bear! What followed was a profusely apologizing cat mom, who held and cuddled a loopy and thankfully clueless Toby.
This was definitely something I thought we’d never come back from – no relational recovery or redemptive potential. Save for three wonderful things, Toby would have forever avoided or disowned me: 1) his “tiny Toby” remained intact and is just fine, 2) he was what Pink Floyd called “comfortably numb”, and 3) cats presumably cannot think and therefore cannot process such a harrowing event.
So all is well on the home front, and this unforgettable moment serves not just to give a few chuckles, but it kept me from repeating the same mistake when it was Timba’s turn. I am thankful Toby knows nothing of this, and more thankful that there is no such thing as pet psychotherapy. I am rather fond of my cats, but I am perhaps more fond of having a neck devoid of one furry and menacing set of vengeful claws.