It’s not a dog’s life …

Chaplin sat in front of the halogen heater, not moving. I watched for a while, confused by this behaviour and noticed steam rising from his fur. Still he didn’t move. I picked him up, felt the side of his coat and realised he was a few seconds from going “woof”.

He had been a bit down for a while but was now becoming increasingly disoriented. Staring at nothing, wobbling on his feet and not going out.

He was silent, sleeping almost constantly and not performing his usual habits of sitting on the settee waiting for a treat, scratching at the settee for me to get the door/food/a treat or running along the back of the settee demanding to play Extreme String: our life currently revolves around the settee.

So, Chaplin and I headed to the vet. He was silent in his cat box. He didn’t meow or purr, only scratched halfheartedly for a moment in a weak attempt to get out: he was momentarily keen to attack the poorly poodle in the waiting room, then fell asleep.

“I think his compliance is proof that he’s genuinely poorly,” I told the vet.

She was a slim Irish woman with a serious expression (perhaps because the cat who went in before Chaplin had been put to sleep, its owners leaving the surgery sobbing).

She introduced herself to Chaplin with “hello big man” and I suspected that an ego boost was likely – even when she repeated the phrase while inserting a thermometer where Chaplin would prefer she didn’t.

“Good man! Good man!” she said, while I held the scruff of his neck, speechless. I imagined this was the point in such situations when a News of the World reporter would make their excuses and leave.

We repeated the humiliation/ego boost while Chaplin had two injections: one to bring his fever down and one a shot of antibiotics. He had no bumps or scratches, no bleeding gums or watery eyes, nor any obvious problems with his kidneys or bladder.

He clearly had a fever and sat on the vet’s table willingly, not caring if he was prodded or poked so long as he would soon be left alone to sleep. Only when leaving did he manage a stern meow in my direction – although for a while we struggled to make eye contact: there are some things flatmates shouldn’t witness.

Then came the painful part of the procedure for me: the two injections and a week’s course of antibiotics cost £63.

That is almost an entire week’s income in Jobseekers’ Allowance – and was intended to pay the rest of my meter debt and two monthly bills. Now I will have to pay some bills late, put off paying the remaining gas meter debt (so have no heating) and no doubt have an unpaid direct debt fee of £30 from the bank.

Still I handed it over with the ease of someone who had just won the Lottery. No doubt Edwina Currie would dismiss Chaplin as a frivolous expense not to be enjoyed by dole scum who should be sitting in cold, darkly-lit homes with bland food and no social life to be truly considered poverty-stricken.

Thankfully friends have bought me much food and wine, so Chaplin and I have enough to eat until well into the New Year. I can keep bill payments at bay for a fortnight but would have a real problem if there was no food, especially if there was no cat food.

Once home Chaplin managed to eat some of this stockpile of Christmas gift food – and get the first of his antibiotics down him. He perked up within an hour and now seems to be on the mend. He’s not back to his usual self entirely – but did jump on the settee this morning and wait for his treat as is usual at 7am.

I’m trying not to follow him around, neurotically, repeatedly asking if he’s ok, because this seems to irritate him, but will now let him watch as much Desperate Scousewives as he likes. I caught him watching it last week: he seems attracted to the high-pitched, vacuous characters on screen, perhaps they remind him of particularly stupid birds.

Seasons Greetings to all – and thank you for your support, generosity and kind words in recent months. I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas time.

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10 thoughts on “It’s not a dog’s life …

  1. Hi you should be able to get free veterinary treatment for Chaplin from the pdsa as you are on benefits. Good blog also . Always enjoy reading it.

  2. I love reading your blog – as always beautifully written, heartfelt and wry. You may know about it, or not but as your on housing benefit, council tax benefit etc you can ger free vet treatment via PDSA Vets. Hope Chaplin makes a good recovery

  3. I’m glad someone’s recommended the PDSA. it’s a life saver if you’re a pet owner on a low income. I’ve been reading your excellent blog for a few months now. I’m a fellow cat lover too – I spent six months sleeping on a university friend’s sofa bed in her living room, surrounded by two adult cats who hated each other and five new born kittens. I didn’t get a wink of sleep, but those innocent little faces used to brighten up an otherwise pretty miserable existence.

    Sending Chaplin lots of mendy vibes.

    Also, wishing you & Chaplin a very merry Christmas and a prosperous 2012.

  4. Hope Chaplin is feeling much better! I would have done the same for my two fur-kids (Oliver and Sammy). Wishing you all the best in 2012 – God knows you deserve it.

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