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You walk past the animal clinic where you’ve been bringing your current cat – an 11-year-old former stray tabby – for a decade of top-notch veterinary care. All in all, you’ve gone there nearly 25 years with various animal companions, including the late lamented Freda Johnson Wonder-Dog. Suddenly and without fanfare, you are taken aback to see a “FOR SALE” sign prominently posted on the small brick townhouse located downtown in “The Gayborhood.”

Inside, a solitary workman’s polishing the floor. Outside, it’s a gorgeous summery Sunday afternoon. The birds are singing. The sun is shining. You’ve just returned from a scrumptious brunch with a dear activist friend freshly back from Italy, so your mind is, understandably, preoccupied with pleasanter things.

On the Global Catastrophe Scale, this has to be a minor disruption. But a disruption it is. During the ensuing weeks, you forget about this small puzzling urban mystery until your cat playfully plunks down upon you one morning, waking you, and thus you are reminded to call the veterinarian’s office and find out what’s up.


A tape-recorded message featuring the exotic and way-literary Euro-accent of the clinic’s Russian émigré former receptionist, let’s call her “Sofia,” matter-of-factly informs you “THE OFFICE IS CLOSED,” and if you wish your pet’s medical records, please state the animal’s name, your name, address, and phone number clearly, spelling out any necessary words. Her crisp tones betray no emotion.

Frankly, I am stunned.

My first thought: Did the vet pass away? Certainly a strong possibility. One, he’s mortal. Two, he’s middle-aged. But no. A few days later, a friend of his would answer the animal clinic phone, again promising to send former clients their pets’ medical histories and any pending prescriptions. Supposedly, “Dr. X” went on to bigger and better things career-wise, becoming a celebrity pet vet for an aquarium and a science museum. So don’t weep for him, Argentina.

But what did his departure really mean? It didn’t make sense. He didn’t notify any of us clients, not even a postcard. It felt like he abandoned his practice. Wasn’t it a betrayal of our trust? Didn’t he care about, well, continuity of care? Eventually, more of the story emerges: news of the tragic death of his vet tech, an unfortunate development probably precipitating profound grief and sadness among the remaining staff, making it impossible to go on.

Now where will you get your animal’s array of obligatory shots and those 20-pound bags of his specially prescribed food? And what will you do if your pet, heaven forbid, gets sick? Certainly, the other nearby veterinarians aren’t very inspiring. Supposedly, one kicked a dog to death before he himself expired. Two others are “not accepting any new clients” – what are they running, a hair salon or an underwear boutique? One watched an overexcited kitten choke to death on the examination table without so much as raising a hand.

Alas, I find my old vet irreplaceable. While not exactly holistic, he was secure and accommodating, meaning he didn’t freak out if you eschewed strong pharmaceuticals for your pet. And although he rarely used it, he did know animal acupuncture. I mourn his closing. Oh, there are other vets, you say. Sure, double-billing you, hanging up on you, overmedicating your cat and blithely charging $500 for a half-hour hello, while they barely recall who your spectacularly precious pet is despite his unique array of symptoms.

Sometimes in a moment of reflection, I’ll slip into a rather reckless Dan Savage-meets-Rick Santorum kind of mood. And what I secretly wonder about is this: When will they legalize civil unions between people and their pets? No, I’m not one of those bestiality nuts. Get that right out of your head this minute. I don’t mind sleeping with my pets, but in this case, sleeping means just that, sleeping. Only last night I was reading Desmond Morris’ “Catwatching,” to discover why cats purr, why they play with their prey and other such cosmic curiosities of feline existence.

Meanwhile, seeking warmth for his creaky bones, my cat has taken to sitting on the keyboard of my laptop. What have these Kitten-on-the-Keys moments accomplished? Already he’s deleted the backup file for my Final Draft screenwriting-format software. If that’s not an editorial decision, I don’t know what is.


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