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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Screamin' Demon

Have you ever noticed those unsung heroes at your veterinary clinic, those feline wonders who wander around seemingly without a care? Do they greet you as you enter the door or do they casually wave their tail at you as you write out your check? Or perhaps they remain in the “back room” during regular hours to keep them out from under foot of clients but they are there. The resident, clinic cats. Every clinic cat has its story. Maybe next time you see one you might ask what his story is. Demon was one cat whose story I can tell.

Demetrius was one of a litter of four born to one of our barn cats, Nile, in 1973. I had just started working at a veterinary hospital when he was born. Over the next few weeks the kittens started dying, not of disease but from the attacks of a neighbor’s dog. Demetrius was the only surviving kitten. I was not allowed to bring him indoors so I did the next best thing: I took him into work with me.

I walked in the front door with the small blue bundle in my arms and everyone rushed to see what it was. When I explained the situation our veterinarian agreed to take Demetrius in as the clinic cat.

Over time several things became obvious; for one, Demetrius was too long a name for a cat that the clientele would be meeting. For another he was becoming a demon of a kitten. Soon the word stuck and he became Demon. First, he began climbing up the backs of clients with no forewarning. That had to stop so he had to be declawed. Next he learned to sit in waiting for certain clients to come in to pet him. They would innocently stroke his soft fur until suddenly they found Demon’s clawed back feet embedded in their hands. Not only that but he learned how to climb on people using his back claws. So Demon became a completely declawed cat. Besides his trouble-making he was also known for being quite talkative to the point of being annoying at times.

However, Demon was always my cat no matter what anyone else thought. Everyday I’d come in to clean the kennels I would stop in front of his cage and lean down for him to climb upon my shoulders. He’d ride my shoulders as I let the dogs outside to the runs. He’d also ride my shoulders as I cleaned up out in the rest of the clinic though he’d jump down whenever there was trouble to be made. I was responsible for keeping him out of trouble but I was pretty lax in that department.

Occasionally Demon managed to escape the bonds of his indoor life by slipping out the back door of the kennel room. No one ever saw him do it but that was the only way he could have gotten out. Soon we would notice that he wasn’t around causing trouble and we’d look outside to see him sunning himself on the roof of the runs. Meanwhile the dogs would be barking like crazy at the escapee.

In 1975 our receptionist talked me into taking Demon to a cat show. It was to be the first ever Iowa State Fair cat show as well as our first. I felt he needed a much more “dignified” name for such an affair so, because of his talkative nature we dubbed him Screamin’ Demon. I learned from the receptionist that cages at cat shows must be decorated in some way so I measured out some poster boards to fit in the cage and painted them in an appropriate theme. It was covered with demonic figures.

Something like 100 cats were entered in that show so we sat and waited quite a bit. But it was worth it in the end. Screamin’ Demon became the first cat to win first place in the first Iowa State Fair cat show!

In spite of all the glory, Demon lived the typical life of a clinic cat. His one other role in the hospital was as a blood donor. For a couple of years he donated blood to cats that needed it for a variety of reasons but he easily bounced back with all the TLC he received each time.

Then came the other cats. You see our wonderful veterinarian was a cat lover and took in a variety of cats. Himabby was a Himalayan/Abyssinian cat he’d adopted that had trouble using the litter pan so he came to the clinic. Rascal was another one who’d outstayed his welcome at home and joined the clinic. By this time I was no longer working at the clinic but I’d stop by for visit periodically with my favorite feline buddy. Demon never seemed too happy with the other cats that came into the clinic but he tolerated them. Demon lived a long, happy life as a clinic cat and left a legacy never to be filled in my life.

So the next time you visit your own veterinary clinic be sure to ask about the clinic cat. You might be surprised at the variety of stories you’ll hear. And you’ll hear the stories from people who truly love them.

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