|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Tries To Help Her Sister, Part 8|
Rowena sighed. “Poor Linus.” So far all she'd actually done was coax him into his pet carrier, but already she felt guilty. He gazed out at her through the door bars, his eyes big and questioning. “Poor Linus. But it's for your own good.”
She stuck her finger through the bars and Linus licked it, his tail wagging. “Linus,” she said, and sighed again. She wished this could be done without surgery. Even very minor surgery.
“There's a good boy,” she said.
She wrestled the pet carrier through the door, set it down to lock up, picked it up again, and began the march out to the parking lot.
“What's wrong with your dog?”
“Nothing,” Rowena said. The man from Number Twelve eyed them both.
“Just a checkup or something?”
The man regarded her. “Gettin' him fixed? Puttin' him under the knife?”
“Guess your fightin' days are over, little guy.” He transferred his attention from Rowena to Linus, whom he regarded with his head cocked.
“What fighting days?” Rowena asked. She tried to walk as quickly as possible without jostling the patient. Her neighbor had no trouble keeping up.
“Well, they say it's healthier for them,” the man said. “Me, I'd feel guilty.” He shook his head. “No more chasin' girls for you, fella.”
“He lives indoors,” Rowena said. “Anyway, he's a puppy. He doesn't do that now. And he's very happy.” She reached her car and set Linus on the ground. “If you're going to anthropomorphize this,” she said, “you might consider how he'd feel about having his babies sent to the pound.” Where something like 98% of them would be put to sleep, she added to herself. “I got him from the pound,” she said aloud. “You get a puppy from the pound, they have you pay to get him neutered; and when he's old enough, you have it done. As you should.”
“I guess,” said the man from Number Twelve. “Still . . .”
Rowena lifted Linus into the car and began pulling out the seat belt. Somehow she'd known she would run into somebody like Number Twelve.
She'd told Sammy, of course, and Terese. The latter had admitted to a temptation to kidnap a certain neighbor's cat and have her spayed.
“It's awful. She's had—what—twenty-six kittens since I've lived there. Less than three years. But her owners don't seem to care.”
The light turned green, and Rowena started forward. She thought of Sammy, whose own cat was neutered and who was matter-of-fact about it all. “They live longer,” he said. Rowena hoped this was true of dogs as well, but even if it wasn't . . .
She could hear scuffling from inside the carrier. Poor Linus, locked up in that thing and headed for the vet. She had no idea whether he understood that the vet was helping him; that even when he did something as awful as taking his patient's temperature, he was still only helping.
Linus scuffled a bit more and gave a questioning little whine.
“Oh, Linus,” Rowena said—just as the animal hospital loomed up ahead.
“Poor little guy.”
Rowena pushed Linus's carrier ahead of her into the waiting room, found a place to set it down, and went up to the appointments desk. The receptionist looked them up and marked them off as present.
“Okay,” she said. “Dr. Brewer is running a little late this morning; I'm afraid we had an emergency brought in.”
“Oh,” said Rowena. “Well—”
“Have a seat and we will get to you.” She smiled. Somebody left an examining room and came to stand behind her, waiting to pay, a pet carrier in his hand. Rowena went back to the chair next to Linus and sat down.
“You okay in there?” she asked. He was shivering slightly. “Poor Linus. Poor pup.” She straightened up, sighing. She didn't think he'd mind retaining his youthful hormone balance, but the anaesthesia and stitches and . . .
Off to her left Rowena saw a pet carrier similar to the one which held Linus but containing—containing an opossum. A fairly large one, too. Rowena looked at the possum. The possum looked at Rowena. Malevolently. There was blood caked on the side of his face. His fur was scruffy, his jaws hung slightly open—and he was drooling. Rowena looked away. She was glad Linus didn't have to encounter such a creature face-to-face somewhere outdoors when she wasn't there. And this was just an opossum. Not a bobcat or a coyote—just a possum.
On the other side of the possum and two seats away was a man with a snake looped over his neck. Rowena was not especially bothered by snakes, but the possum lady kept looking at this one from the corners of her eyes. Rowena looked to her right. A beagle and a large grey cat, both on leashes; the beagle on the floor by a man's feet and the cat in a woman's lap. Evidently the “normal” side of the room.
The front door opened and a woman struggled in. She had three cat carriers, and Rowena hastened to hold the door for her.
“Oh, thank you,” the woman said. She beamed at Rowena, who started back to Linus' side. “Oh, is your kitty in there?” the woman asked. “I just love kitties! They are so adorable.”
“Well, actually—” Rowena began. The woman lined up her cat carriers on the elevated countertop and came after her. “What kind is she?” she asked, bending. Before Rowena could answer, the woman let out a shriek.
“It's a dog!” she cried. “Horrible dirty disgusting bloodthirsty beast! A DOG!”
“He's a nice dog,” Rowena objected.
“Keep him away from my kitties!” She marched back to the reception desk, stopping just long enough to glare first at Rowena, and then at the owner of the beagle.
“Hear that, Sneed?” the man said. “Stay away from those yummy cats over there.” Sneed thumped his tail, and the man gave Rowena a conspiratorial wink.
“Oh! Barbarians, every one of them!” This seemed to refer equally to the dogs and their owners. She regarded the grey cat a moment. “You poor thing, trapped over there with those beasts. Poor terrified kitty.”
“For Pete's sake,” said the cat's owner, irritably. “Does she look terrified?”
“Such a brave kittikins.” She smiled sympathetically from the safe distance of the desk. “So brave.”
“May I help you?” inquired the receptionist, with a desperate cheerfulness the Kitty Lady didn't seem to notice.
“I've got Mitzi, Mittens, and Boots here for their check-up,” she announced. “And I'll have to make an appointment for Fluffy, Snowball, and Fred.”
Just to get a little farther away from all this and to give herself something to do besides listen to it, Rowena went over to the bulletin board. Lost Parrot—Reward. Two Sweet Bunnies Need Home—Must Stay Together. Does Your Pet Have Cancer? What You Should Know. Lost Cat—Jenny is a 6-year-old calico with a bandaged leg. Loyal & Lovable: Herman is still mourning the death of his owner—he needs a warm loving home right away! Found: Pregnant Cat, now the mom of 7 healthy kittens. Reward for Lost Dog—needs medication. Help us find our pride & joy. What Is Feline Leukemia?
Rowena sat back down. She thought about frightened missing pets. She thought of the Sweet Bunnies, of confused, unhappy Herman. Of people with immediate need of the medical brochures.
A veterinary assistant appeared. “Ah—Stinky?” she asked. Rowena was pretty sure which of the animals was Stinky. Sure enough, the lady with the possum stood up.
“I had to call him something for the form,” she said, smiling. “I'm only keeping him till he's better.” The Kitty Lady looked over at the possum and gave a long, slow shudder; this time, however, she said nothing. Rowena, who had expected a shriek at least, relaxed a little and settled back in her chair.
“What happened to him?” the assistant asked.
“I guess something attacked him, or . . . I don't know; I just found him like this.”
“They're not supposed to get attacked,” the assistant said. She let the woman and possum into the middle examining room. “Isn't that playing possum stuff supposed to protect them?” The door closed, and any response the woman made was lost.
Rowena continued to sit. The snake went in for its appointment; evidently it was called Slithers. A mutt came in, and a parrot. The mutt was wearing a big funnel-shaped collar to prevent her from chewing a still-bald spot. Rowena eyed her; she was glad when the dog's person led her to a far chair. The grey cat was called; her name was Misty. The Snake Man left the examining room with Slithers again around his neck. Then it was Sneed's turn. And then the parrot's. Then Mitzi, Mittens, and Boots, as the Kitty Lady watched with an eagle eye the assistant who helped her carry them in.
Presently the front door burst open and a man rushed in. Holding the door for a woman with a cardboard box, he called to the desk, “We called; we've got Max here; he was hit by a car.” His voice rose slightly at the end: please know about us; please be ready. Please save our pet right now.
“Of course,” said the receptionist. “Dr. Arthur is waiting for you. Right this way.” And they hurried after her.
Rowena looked at the floor. She waited. She heard a receptionist say to an assistant, “What a day, huh?”
“Were you here when the Great Dane came in who'd eaten the rat poison, or was that before your time?”
“Oh, God, that must have been before.”
“Absolutely miserable; he came in while we had this litter of puppies who were dying of parvo and a cat—” The assistant noticed that people were listening and lowered her voice. The receptionist whispered back something that sounded shocked as the people waiting pretended they weren't trying to hear. Rowena looked at Linus, watched him watching her.
She went on waiting. She wondered what kind of emergency Dr. Brewer had had. She wondered what sort of animal Max was. She wondered if they'd be all right. She reminded herself that this was an animal hospital; that this sort of thing happened. Linus cocked his head at her; he was wondering something too.
From behind one of the examining room doors she heard someone cry, “Oh, no.” Rowena took a breath. Linus was still looking at her. She put her hand flat on the carrier door, but did not speak.
“Linus?” the assistant said.
Their turn. Rowena got up and lifted the pet carrier which held safe her perfectly healthy dog. The assistant stepped aside as she approached.
“See? What did I tell you? We're home!” Rowena unlocked her door and brought Linus in. She locked the door behind them. And then she knelt in front of the carrier and opened the door.
“Easy does it, okay?” He stepped out; he was back home but still confused. She lifted him gently.
“I know what we'll do,” she said. “Come here.” She went to the chair by the telephone, sat carefully down and put Linus in her lap. She scratched him behind the ears. “How's that?” she asked. “Just the way you like it, huh?”
She reached for the phone, picked it up, and dialed Sammy's number.
“Hi,” said Rowena. “We're back.” She leaned against the cushion, the telephone with Sammy's voice warm against her ear and her dog snuggled in her lap—her own Linus who had never been really sick, who had never given her that much cause to worry. “They had two emergencies and an injured opossum and—and here I'd been feeling guilty about taking him in and—and there's nothing wrong with him.”
“You're a conscientious pet owner,” Sammy said.
“Well—I guess. But I was seeing all these things going wrong, all these dangers and everything, and I feel so lucky. Isn't it funny?” Rowena asked. “I just feel so fortunate.”
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