I feel the need to come clean. Mostly because I had a visit from a sweet patient of mine who happens to be a veterinarian. I listened to her tell me sincerely about a cat she had diagnosed with cancer and the chemo drug that had been recalled.
I feel I owe the good vet and all animal lovers an explanation.
You see, before 1999 I was pet “neutral.” Not a lover not a hater…just apathetic. The events of that year made me the anti-pet woman I am today.
1999 was a monumental year for us. We were finishing residency, had real jobs lined up, and had decided to start our family.
I became pregnant with Maisy (who will be 13 in a few weeks–yes these are the best of times) that fall. In the midst of my horrid morning/noon/night sickness, Chris thought it would be a good idea to bring home a tiny baby kitten from the SPCA. He thought this cute kitty could keep me company when I was home alone and repeatedly romancing the porcelain bowl.
Chris was a third year pediatric resident at St. Christopher’s so he was gone A LOT. Admittedly, it was nice to have another living thing in our tiny two bedroom apartment. I would see the kitty out of the corner of my eye scurry here or there. She seemed to be always under foot and had a habit of perching right next to my shoulder if I was ever sitting on the couch–which in my present state was often.
One miserable winter day, I decided that I would try to do something nice for Chris. I had not vomited in about 7 minutes so I was moved to clean up and do the laundry. He has this crazy thing about smells and had been saying that all of our towels smelled funny…like they had been allowed to sit in the washer too long before being dried ( who the heck would let that happen?)
Emboldened by my momentarily quiet stomach, I grabbed armloads of towels and threw them into the washer. As I poured the detergent and shut the lid, the Tide scent set me off. Heaving ensued. I recovered just as the load was finished washing. Determined to complete just one chore, I steadied my electrolyte depleted legs, willed myself to only breathe through my mouth and started firing the wet fresh smelling towels into the open dryer. Down to the last two, I was once again gripped by the urge to puke.
Finally, the last two towels are in. I throw in a dryer sheet and slam the door. I then turn the knob to HOT (towels don’t shrink) and collapse on the couch.
I don’t know how much time passes but I am awakened not by the presence of something but by its absence. There is no kitten perched behind me on the couch. I glance around casually at first. Then, realizing she is never far, panic sets in. I tear through the apartment room by room looking in closets, cabinets and under furniture. She is nowhere to be found.
By now I have Chris on the phone. He is trying to indulge my hormonal hysteria while inserting an IV into a premature newborn for his Chief Resident. Clearly he is distracted when he asks “did you check the bathroom?”
For some inexplicable reason, I don’t want to go into the bathroom. I tell myself it’s because I have only been in that bathroom to hurl..but there is another reason.
Gingerly I walk into the guest bath which also housed our laundry. The apartment is silent save for the sound of the towels turning in the dryer.
There is something wrong.
All I put into that dryer were large fluffy bath towels. There were no zippers, buckles, or shoes. Nothing that should make a clanging noise as it turned and turned and turned.
And yet there it was: ka-clang, ka-clang, ka-clang. Rhythmic, loud and unmistakeable. I race over and fling open the dryer door.
It is the most horrifying sight: a pile of fluffy clean warm towels tumbles to the floor..along with our beautiful, lifeless, and very warm kitty.
I think I fainted. Next thing I know my father in law was standing over me. I learned later that I still had Chris on the phone as I screamed. He immediately called his dad who came to my rescue. After removing the kitten from the house in a cardboard box, he sat with me for a while.
“No, honey, it does not mean you won’t be a good mother…babies don’t jump into dryers…they can’t even crawl at first.”
Back then, I felt comforted by that fact. I knew my baby would NOT be inadvertently tumble dried on my watch. What I didn’t know was that thirteen years later, my worries about becoming a good mother would be eclipsed by the harsh realities of actively parenting a teen.
I know that Bounce-y kitty is in a temperature controlled kitty heaven looking down on me and smiling. She is confident that in her death, at least three children were saved from the dangers of drying towels.