When I take the cats to the vet, I take great pride in relating the doctor’s comments to Lisa, as they are usually overwhelmingly positive. For instance, when Coleman visited for her yearly check-up I practically called Lisa from the examining room when the doctor described Coleman’s demeanor as “perfect” and went to great lengths to admire her “beautiful coat” and “pretty face.” Do you know how many cats a veterinarian sees each day, I thought, as I rehearsed my conversation with Lisa. Coleman’s beauty was being praised on high authority! Of course, I neglected to mention that the doctor determined Coleman weighs 15 pounds–a bit more than a small terrier–or that she didn’t even flinch when she was assed by a thermometer. (This last observation pleased the doctor but somehow disturbed me, especially Coleman’s nostrils had to be momentarily blocked because she was purring so loudly while being sodomized that the doctor couldn’t pick out her heartbeat.)

Likewise, when Ble visited last week I memorized the vet’s assessment of her docile personality as “a breath of fresh air,” considering that most calico cats are completely mental, and can turn into a maelstrom of claws and spittle when a stranger tries to hold them. And likewise, I considering censoring the news that Ble has a neurological disorder that’s been causing her to lick her belly fur clean, and couldn’t quite recall how the vet described the less-than-stellar state of Ble’s teeth. (“Her mouth is a disgusting mess.”) In any case, Ble had to return today for a good old-fashioned tooth cleaning–preceded by a good old-fashioned IV filled with sedatives. It seemed ridiculous to pay someone to brush my cat’s teeth and the diagnosis made me wish I were a farmer or something, so I could say, “Brush her teeth? Well, that’s pure nonsense! Ain’t but a cat!! If’n its* teeth fall out, well, that’s just less teeth to fret over, now ain’t it?” But I am not a farmer and, as such, I am at the mercy of anyone in a lab coat.

I think any decent veterinarian would do his or her best to make sure the examining rooms are free of anything that would either ridicule or horrify pets. This vet manages to break both rules at once. While waiting in the examining room, I noticed it was appointed with a “Dogs Playing Snooker” print on one wall and, on the opposing wall, a full cat skeleton and dog skull. Look one way and it’s the Friar’s Club; look the other way and you’re in the offices of Ed Gein, M.D. Was any of it necessary? Does a cat need to see how its own skeleton works? Does a dog need to be tempted with billiards and gambling?

I was sent home with a bag full of goofy, punch-drunk cat and a dental kit, including a “finger brush” and tube of poultry-flavored toothpaste. (fresh!) The vet charged more to clean Ble’s teeth than my dentist charged to clean mine, which seemed borderline criminal. Even worse, I have to bring Ble back next week to get fitted for braces.

*Having never really spent much time with farmers, I decided that in my fantasy the character of “farmer” would neither know, nor care to know the gender of his pets.

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