We hadn't been in San Jose more than a few weeks before Tiger, ecstatic to have a yard to play in again, comes inside with a tick. The bite got a bit infected and so I decided to take him for a check up to the nearest veterinarian I could find. The nearest place turned out to be a real "Animal Hospital." To those of us used to those little back office examining rooms behind pet stores, this was certainly a new experience for me.
Before one even entered the door, the signs in front of the building showed you this place meant business:
Once inside I was greeted by two very busy assistants who immediately had me fill in a "new patient " form. A few strokes into the computer, and Tiger's medical file soon joined the awe-inspiring collection in the file cabinet in the back.
Next came a short stay in the waiting room. I think Tiger appreciated the advertising as little as I did, but I did enjoy the free coffee and cookies.
When we were ushered into the examining room, a medical assistant first checked Tiger's temperature, weight, and overall fur quality. Then came Dr. H. wearing a white coat and stethoscopes. She examined the tick bite, listened to his heartbeat, felt his abdomen, and questioned me thoroughly on Tiger's health and vaccination history. She took Tiger away to clean the tick bite and to administer a blood test.
In the meantime, I got into a friendly conversation with Linda, one of the assistants in the reception area. When I told her I was back in the USA after 18 years abroad, she told me to read Bill Bryson's book, I'm a Stranger Here Myself. In fact, she just lent me her own book. Right there, in the office. "Here," she said after having met me only five minutes ago. "Just bring it back when you're done."
A few days later, while I'm in Los Angeles visiting cousins on a Saturday afternoon, my cell phone rings.
"This is Dr. H. I just wanted to let you know Tiger's blood tests have come in. His BUN levels are within normal but his creatinine levels are a little high."
"Ah, what does that mean?"
"Well, his kidneys are still functioning but they could be a little weak. That would account for his high water intake. You might want to put him on a senior diet."
"Oh, OK, thank you."
That extraordinary experience was soon topped by the enormous bill for this admittedly extraordinary care. ($334.29) I could also mention, just on the side, that I don't even pay this amount of cash for my kids' check-ups. Their kidneys have also never been checked. But then I am sure this blog would be swamped with comments from animal rights activists accusing me of heartlessness and cruelty for feeling guilty for spending so much money and resources on a cat, when I really truly believe that money (and resources) should be spent elsewhere, on human beings, for example.
But I'll save all that for another post.