The road wound up, up and up. My trusty little van growled, and the view spread out forever. I turned the air con up a notch as the sun burst through the windscreen, and a smile crept across my face. I was looking out for the turnoff, slowing down. There! A battered old wooden sign. I rolled off the bitumen and onto a narrow dirt and gravel track, a narrow canyon of clear way through ranks of tall trees tangled with vines. Cool, shady, peaceful… I wound down my windows to let in the fresh smell of the forest, along with the clear bell-like calls of the whip birds. I rolled slowly and carefully over bumps, around tight corners, before I came to the house, nestled in a clearing, looking out over the valley.
Two people emerged from inside, gave me a cheery wave, and called me inside. I gathered my stethoscope and bag, and walked in to find four kittens wrestling with each other on the floor. Rag doll kittens, as cute as a button.
“They’re little cuties, aren’t they?” I said.
“They are,” came a ready reply, “And at the same time we’re going to be happy to see the last of the little rascals! They do keep us very busy.”
“Never a dull moment with kittens in the house!” I replied. “How have they been – any health issues at all?”
“No. They’ve been as bright as the early morning sun ever since they popped out, and their mum has been fine too, though she’s lost a little bit of weight feeding them.”
“Ok- I’ll just examine them all first, then I’ll pop out and get their vaccines.”
One by one they handed the kittens to me, and I checked them all over with a thorough examination- looking in their mouths (sharp little teeth!), eyes, ears, checking their tummies for any umbilical hernias, palpating their abdomens, and then assaulting them with the thermometer. They were all absolutely healthy, so I went out to the van, collected four syringes and needles, lifted the lid on the fridge, found the vaccines and reconstituted them with sterile saline. In a jiffy I was back, sitting on the couch. Again, they handed me the kittens one by one, I firstly popped a drop or two of homeopathic remedy on their nose (much to their disgust, though it helps their little bodies accept the shock of vaccination more easily) gently scruffed them, slipped the needle under the skin, and squeezed the vaccine in. As I put them down after this, a couple of the kittens stayed paralysed, fallen gently on their sides.
“What’s up with those two?” came a question, full of concern.
I explained: “Sometimes the stimulation of the injection going into the same area where the mother would scruff them kicks off the scruffing reflex – you know how they go limp and floppy when you pick them up by the scruff? It will wear off in a minute and they’ll be running around like normal.”
Sure enough, each of them gave themselves a bit of a shake, and me a very reproachful look, then skulked off to hide under the chair with their friends. I tidied up the paperwork while I chatted away to the kittens people, asking them about what they did for work, how long they’d been living here, and life in general. I handed over the certificates, then stood up to go.
“Would you like some rainforest honey?” they asked me. “We have some hives here, it’s very flavoursome, totally organic, not heat treated…”
“I’d love some!” I replied. “Nothing better than really good honey.”
So they sent me on my way with a big tub of honey, and a cheery wave.