A Rose By Any Other Name
Copyright 2007, Sarah Hartwell

One winter, I took pity on a down-and-out cat that turned up at my door. Not only was she painfully thin and matted, covered in dirt and parasites, the poor old girl had a distinct wiff of something nasty buried in the mats of fur. The bad breath and dribbling mouth suggested either a massive dental problem or a bone stuck in her mouth, either of which would explain her poor physical state. There was also a good chance she was hyperthyroid; not only does this cause thinness, the fur grows faster than normal and tends to mat. Hyperthyroid cats seek out cool places which would explain why this poor thing had half a hedge stuck in her coat.

I'm not one to turn away an obviously neglected cat, though the then boyfriend (who has since taken himself elsewhere) was not enthusiastic about taking in "yet another smelly old moggy." He offered to foot the vet bill for either euthanasia or putting the poor old girl to rights if it was something easily curable such as bad teeth or a stuck fishbone. His offer didn't extend to treating hyperthyroidism and he was pretty certain the cat was a euthanasia case.

Though "Smelly Puss" (ex-boyfriend's name for her, not mine) was evidently ravenous, she didn't seem able to eat, so I popped her in a carrier and whisked her off to the vet. The receptionist simply entered her details as stray and the vet and I referred to the matted moggy as "Puss" on the grounds that I didn't want to get too fond of her if the only humane option was the to send her to the cat basket in the sky.

"Luckily I think her only real problem is dreadful teeth," pronounced the vet, after poking round in Puss's drooling mouth and listening to her heart, "Her thyroid doesn't feel enlarged."

I scratched the pungent puss between the ears while the vet washed brown drool off his hand and typed some notes into the computer.

"Her gums are too sore for her to groom herself," he added, "We'll keep her in overnight and give her some fluids and get those teeth out tomorrow."

Puss was booked in to have her grotty teeth removed and her manky fur shaved off and would recover well once she could eat and groom again.

Boyfriend (soon to be ex-boyfriend) and I weren't getting on too well at the time, something the vet well knew. I'd asked if neutering would stop boyfriends from roaming, but the vet insisted it was unethical in the case of straying boyfriends while sympathetically undercharging me for the consultation about Feral Frankie's castration.

"Is 'he' going to let you keep this one?" he asked.

"He's agreed to foot the bill, probably out of guilt over his last escapade, and she can stay in the spare room until there's room at the shelter, but he wants her rehomed," I told him.

"Aaah, guilty-boyfriend-open-wallet syndrome," replied doctor vet, "Much more practical than a box of chocolates."

"I was holding out for a new car!" I laughed as I loaded Puss into her carrier. "He also asked if you'd shampoo her as she stinks and he doesn't want the spare room to stink."

"He'd soon stink pretty badly if he had to live rough."

"It would make a change from stinking of another woman's perfume!"

"And to think my wife complains I go home smelling of tomcat pee and antiseptic!"

The next afternoon, boyfriend had a hospital appointment for yet another sinus infection. For once it was a real appointment and not an excuse to slope off with the other woman. By coincidence, the vet also had a hospital appointment and on his way out of the consulting room he noticed ex sitting in the waiting room. Being on his way back to a housecall, doctor vet was carrying his white coat and looked for all the world like a doctor coming off duty.

He looked straight at boyfriend and called out in a loud voice, "Your girlfriend's pussy doesn't stink any more and it's finally clean and shaved, so she now smells sweet as a rose."

Suddenly the focus of everyone's attention, from receptionist through to waiting patients, boyfriend went red. My wonderful vet was merciless.

"By the way, I'm pretty sure she's pregnant though goodness only knows who the father is!" and he walked through the stunned and silent waiting room to the exit.

As he left, he heard sniggers break out at this apparent slight on ex-boyfriend's manhood.

The ex didn't really see the funny of things as he hated losing face. He mentioned something about being humiliated by one of my vet friends (it was left to doctor vet to tell me the whole story). He left some weeks later. I never did forward the vet bill to him. In fact I'm not sure the vet charged me full whack for treating Puss/Rose, either through guilt when he learnt ex had gone or because he'd enjoyed scoring a few brownie points.

Puss (who was renamed Rose by the vet) wasn't actually pregnant and was soon rehomed. She was actually quite a young cat and her bad teeth were due to an unusual auto-immune condition that, grossly simplified, caused her body to attack her own teeth.