My veterinarian is known in town as the Vet from Hell but I still take my cat there because, you see, while he very well may be the Vet from Hell, I have the Cat from Hell. Whenever I take my cat to the vet, I wonder if it’s really fair to expose him to the beast. She’s almost as bad as a virus.
But when I arrived with my sick cat at the Vet from Hell’s office, it was closed. So I called my friend Kazu, who has four cats, and he took me and the beast to his vet in the countryside. I have to admit that I was very surprised when I walked into the vet’s office. I didn’t realize Rip van Winkle was a vet.
The vet’s hands shook as he filled out the form. “What’s your name?” he asked, pen poised.
“Amy.” Rip looked confused.
“A-ee-mee,” said Kazu. We kept repeating “A-ee-mee, A-ee-mee, A-ee-mee” until it sounded more like a chant. Rip just stared at the paper. I wrote my name for him.
“What’s your cat’s name?” he said, pen poised again.
“Frank,” I said and sounded out the name in katakana, “Fu-ran-ku.” Rip’s hands shook as he wrote out the name, “Fwank.”
Then he walked over to Fwank’s cage to open it.
“Wait!” I said with urgency. “Um, aren’t you going to use gloves?”
“Oh,” said Rip, catching my drift. He put on some carpentry gloves and turned to open the cage.
“Wait!” I said. “Um, don’t you have any thicker gloves?”
“Oh,” said Rip. This time, not only did he put on thicker gloves that went all the way up to his elbows, he also put a netted bag over the entrance to the cage.
“Reeeeeeeeeeer!” said Fwank, lumbering out into the bag.
The vet’s wife came in and started doing a routine check-up while asking me questions. She stuck a thermometer into Frank’s behind and held it there while holding his tail with the other hand in an all-too-casual manner. Luckily for Fwank, her hands did not shake like Rip’s.
“What does Fwank eat?” she asked me, her voice way too loud — a sure sign she was used to talking to Rip.
“Cat food,” I said.
“CAT food?” She had this way of stressing certain words in a sentence.
“Yes. Dry cat food.”
“DRY cat food?” she seemed amazed. “What about rice?”
“No, no rice,” I said. Then she did that thing Japanese people do when they find something astonishing. They let out a long “Ehhhhh?” with a steady rising tone. But said with the mouth closed, like this lady did, it becomes “Hmmmmm?”
“No RICE? Hmmmmm? How about milk?” she said, still holding Fwank’s tail.
“I’ve never tried to feed her milk.”
“NoMAN? (She DOESN’T drink milk?) Hmmmmmm?” She spoke in the local dialect. The hmms were getting longer. Who was this crazy “gaijin” who only fed her cat DRY cat food? I was beginning to wonder who they were examining, me or my cat. They decided to keep Fwank overnight so they could run some tests.
When I returned the next day, Fwank was splayed out, hissing on the table with an IV in her. The diagnosis was “HIYASHItoru” (she’s COLD). “It has affected her liver.”
“Ano esa wa, AWAN!” (That dry food is NOT SUITABLE). “Give her this medicine and feed her canned cat food. Give her warm milk and buy her a hot pad to sleep on.”
Ten thousand yen later, I brought the beast home. I showed the medicine to my friend who used to work in a veterinarian’s office. “Amy,” she said, “this food is not for the liver, it’s for the kidneys.” I was so surprised, all I could say was, “Hmmmmmm?”