I started getting “The Look” when Sarah Jane realized she was on a diet. “The Diet” is an annual thing, about a month out from “The Visit.”
“The Look.” “The Diet.” “The Visit.”
I’ve never ever used so many “quotes” and so many “caps” before, but that’s how we talk each year when it’s time for Sarah Jane’s visit to Dr. Elmer. We have taken assorted dogs and cats to his Porter Animal Hospital ever since we moved to Lake Houston and he was doctoring (or is it vetting) out of an old house on FM 1314.
Frankly, I would rather eat nails than take that cat to the vet. Yes, Sarah Jane is a cat. A domestic shorthair. That is vet talk for mutt. Short, shiny black hair flecked with brown except for her pretty white paws. Most days, a sweetheart of a little girl. OK, maybe not quite a little girl. She is 8 now and once a year, when that vet notice pops up on my computer calendar, Sarah Jane seems to be just a tad bit heftier.
Honestly, after eight years, Sarah Jane knows the routine better than we do. She knows what is about to happen. A month of starvation concluding with an excursion in a cramped carrier to the Porter Animal Hospital.
We adopted Sarah Jane from a co-worker named Arlene who had to give her up because Mom was allergic. Sarah Jane has had lots of changes in her short eight years. Her name was Patches because of the white, brown and black fur patches on her face, but Patches is oh, so catlike. We like unique names. Names with character.
Most of our recent pets were named in honor of our favorite “Bewitched” television characters — Endora, Clara, Tabitha, Samantha. Well, Samantha was Samantha until we discovered Samantha was a he. He became Sam.
When Sarah Jane came into our lives, we named her after a character in one of our fave movies of all time, “Imitation of Life.”
Sarah Jane’s first few weeks with us were tough. She had to get used to a new name and, when we talked to her she gave us a weird blank look. We thought there might be a problem. Maybe a hearing problem? One day a friend came to visit and Sarah Jane perked right up. Maybe, just maybe, she didn’t respond because she didn’t like us. And then the light went on. We talked with Arlene, the co-worker who had to give her up.
“When Sarah Jane lived with you, what language did you speak?” we asked.
“We speak Spanish at home, so we probably spoke Spanish,” Arlene replied.
That was the problem. Sarah Jane couldn’t understand anything we were saying. Our friend who bonded with her spoke Spanish to her. Sarah Jane spoke Spanish. We were speaking English. We were going to have to learn more Spanish words or Sarah Jane was going to have to learn English. Sarah Jane was a quick learner and picked up our words in no time. When she was hungry, she didn’t need words. She just trotted over to her empty dish and looked up pathetically.
When Sarah Jane looks up at us with those honey-colored, oval-shaped eyes pleading for a little bit of food, well, how can we say no. It’s just a little snack, Dr. Elmer. Blue Buffalo Natural Duck canned food before her next meal.
I’m not sure which is worse. Sarah Jane’s pathetic look of starvation or the look Dr. Elmer gives when he brings her back from the scale. A look is worth a thousand words.
“Sarah Jane has gained a little since her last visit,” Dr. Elmer says, looking me straight in the eye. Then I get the lecture. I know it well. Cats are, well, little. They don’t require a lot of food, 250 calories. About 4 or 5 ounces a day. Fourteen pounds is too many snacks.
This next year is going to be different. We are suffering from our own “Quarantine Fifteen.” So, I promised Dr. Elmer no more snacking — for us or Sarah Jane.
The horrible visit was almost over. And then, Dr. Elmer said something I had suspected but didn’t want to face.
“Sarah Jane is a middle-aged lady now,” he told me. “She’s doing just fine right now but you might think about twice-a-year visits.”
Sarah Jane heard Dr. Elmer. I could see it in her adorable, honey-colored, oval-shaped eyes. Twice-a-year visits!
My heart sank.