The pet emergency room is way more exciting than you’d think.

If you go there, lugging your overweight cat, at 1:30am on a Sunday night, it’s like Carnivál. Especially if it appears that said cat has a urinary tract infection. Can’t you just feel how festive?

C and I trundled poor Olivia into the car and she yowled on the 10, and on the 405, and all the way up Sepulveda. I’m sure she knew she was headed for Land of Prodding. Animals have that kind of basic instinct. We googled the words “pink urine cat” and learned all about the wonders of feline UTI. So, there we were – already bleary from two weeks of family visits, C jr’s founts of energy, and the fact that it was 1:30 in the A.M..

But how can one go peacefully to bed when the cat is struggling to pee? Even embroidered on a pillow, that sentence reeks of guilt.

A friendly nurse hauled Olivia away and C and I plopped into plastic-covered chairs in an exam room. Next door, a Korean couple brooded over their Pomeranian, who had a distended belly and looked extremely put out.

Our doctor, who could walk directly onto the Grey’s Anatomy set and look fresh-faced and well-intentioned, came in and gave us all kinds of helpful information. He appeared to be about 15 years old, but I was a Doogie Howser fan, so I nodded seriously at him. We all nodded at each other and then, suddenly, another doctor popped her head in the door. “WE NEED YOU,” she said, and our doctor hustled out.

You know, the circle of life is an interesting proposition.

We don’t really witness it much, as antiseptic as most of us are about the meat we purchase, the funerals we attend, the births we’re completely doped up for (and let me be clear – I’m a firm believer in painless deliveries). C jr and I were in the market the other day, and she pointed to a styrofoam package of beef. Blood, she said, faintly surprised. Yep. Flesh and blood.

So when our doctor strode into a nearby exam room and we heard a woman cry out in shock, C and I stopped pushing each other’s chairs and became very still. We held our collective breath and listened to her crying. This peripheral trauma, this eavesdropping on a stranger’s grief – it was an equal mix of relief and empathy…an electric wire of connection.

Then, another doctor came out and announced to the Korean couple that their dog was, actually, pregnant. There was an extended silence, and we heard the guy go What the fuck???

What the fuck, indeed, sir. Spay your dog.

The Pomeranian had her puppies that night. We didn’t know she was pregnant, the couple wailed. Better than your daughter, C told the couple.

After two hours, Olivia was finally brought back out, and we were given some pain killers to administer, orally, three times a day. Don’t be alarmed if you see her foaming at the mouth, the nurse said, smiling. Right. Good to know that rabid appearance, vomiting, and constipation are all possible side-effects of helping our cat remain pain-free.

Maybe we can just train her to drink cranberry juice.

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