Gina Tiano

Somewhere along the line I learned how to speak “cat.” Mom says I come by it naturally, but I suspect I might have picked it up from hanging around one too many abandoned barns.

“Aw wite my widdle kiddy,” I say, lifting our cat Barry’s leg, “whets have a widdle wook at you.”

Cocking his fuzzy head, Barry rolls his eyes in my direction.

“Cut it out,” daughter Mindy says. “The doctor’s gonna’ think you’re related to Elmer Fudd.”

Unless a rabid rabbit somehow finds its way onto our sofa, Barry’s odds of catching a disease are right up there with Spouser catching Nicole Kidman. But somehow Barry has managed to hurt his leg and is stumbling around the house with a limp and a seeping sore.

Mindy and I won’t rest until Dr. Garza has given him a perfect bill of health.

After probing every orifice, Dr. Garza opens his secret drawer of pain and pulls out the hypodermic. Holding it in the air, he gives it a little thump.

“I think it’s best we give Barry a painkiller and start him on antibiotics. Now this won’t hurt a bit,” Dr. Garza coos as he moves in on our kitty with the 2-inch needle.

Flying straight up, Barry perches on top of my head like a 22-pound parrot.

“He doesn’t like needles,” I translate, as Mindy plays the drum solo with a couple of tongue depressors.

Two shots later, Barry’s doing great, but I look like someone ran over me with a Singer sewing machine.

About this time, Dr. Garza’s intern arrives with a handful of pills. Taking one look at her, Barry lets out a shriek.

“In your dreams,” I translate.

Clamping his little kitty lips together, Barry sets his teeth and braids his whiskers. An atom couldn’t pass through those lips.

After the crowbar fails, Dr. Garza gives the intern a somber nod. Disappearing into the room of torture, she returns with what looks like a tiny commode plunger on the end of a harpoon.

Barry’s eyes get the size of full saucers.

“This can’t be good,” I translate.

Legs spread and harpoon raised over her shoulder, the intern takes aim. Dr. Garza pinches Barry’s nose, and the second Barry comes up for air, the intern crams the pill plunger in up to her elbow.

Quickly bending down, Dr. Garza and the intern watch Barry’s mouth to make sure he doesn’t spit the pill out. Meanwhile, Mindy and I tilt our heads toward Barry’s other end to see if she shoved it clear out his back door.

“Well,” Dr. Garza says, peeling off his rubber gloves, “if he’d drop a few pounds, I’d say Barry has nine lives ahead of him.”

Eyes narrowed, Barry stares at the exposed skin on Dr. Garza’s arm.

“Don’t come any closer,” I translate.

As we’re standing at the register paying the bill, a woman is dragged across the room by her drooling Doberman.

“Oh!” she cries, as the Doberman rams Barry’s cage and sends it skidding across the room, “Fang wants to see the fat kitty!”

Hissing, spitting and fur flying like he’s possessed, Barry levitates his cage a foot off the floor.

“Oh my,” the women chirps, as Fang rips a chunk out of Barry’s cage with his teeth, and spits it out the side of his mouth, “Fang likes kitty.”

“SIT!” I scream, and the woman immediately drops into a chair.

Suddenly, Barry begins to rock back and forth like a boat in stormy weather.

“Here comes the mother of all hairballs,” I translate.

Out shoots the pill, today’s tuna and yesterday’s lizard guts. SPLAT! In the dog’s face.

Fully satisfied, Barry’s eyes are glazed and he’s developed a slight tic.

“Will he be OK?” Mindy asks.

“Cats rule and dogs drool,” I translate.

Update: Thanksgiving weekend a pit bull terrier and two other large dog mixes made their way into our yard and killed our dear old cat Barry. Spouser, wearing only his underwear, charged screaming out onto the lawn sending the dogs running down the street. In the commotion, we were unable to determine if they were stray dogs or pets that had escaped from someone’s yard. Barry was hurt badly. He took three last breaths looking up at Spouser, and then he died. We will always love and remember Barry as one of our oldest, dearest cats — Mindy’s cat. God bless Barry’s little soul.