The gate was old, rusty, the garden unkempt and overgrown. I walked in, along the path, and knocked on the front door.
“Come in, dear,” quavered an old ladies voice from inside. “I’m not too good on my legs these days, or I’d let you in.”
The house was old, and as neat as a pin. Everything in it was old, worn, and faded. She was settled deep in her chair, stick thin arms drooping with wrinkled old skin, and a bright smile wreathed in lines on her face. Her eyes were alive, and there was obviously nothing wrong with her mind, even though her body was nearing the end.
I’m so glad you could come!” she said. “I just can’t get the old fellow to the vet anymore you know, because I don’t drive, and the box is so heavy with him in it. I’ve been worried about him, he seems to be getting a bit skinny, you know, and he hasn’t had a checkup or a vaccination for a while now.”
There was a skinny old black cat curled up on a chair. I went over to examine him, and he raised up his head to give me a considering look. The old lady chattered away as I looked him over, telling me stories about things he’d done, scrapes he’d gotten into when he was a young cat, talking and talking – obviously starved for company. I smiled and nodded. The old cat was skinny, and his teeth were pretty yucky, but otherwise he seemed ok. He rattled and purred away while I gently poked and prodded at him. I could feel that his kidneys were a lot smaller than they should be, when I got to palpating his tummy.
“Has he been drinking more water than he used to?” I asked, when she paused for a moment.
“Yes, come to think of it, I think he has,” she said.
“He’s pretty good for his age,” I explained. “He is eighteen, after all. I do think his kidneys are gently failing though, which would explain the increased drinking. There’s not a lot we can do for that, and he will slowly get worse. If he goes off his food, then it will be time to help him move along – but he may go on for a good while yet…”
Her eyes filled with unshed tears. “Oh I know he’s old, but I’ll miss him when he goes, he’s my only friend, you know, I talk to him all day long, and he comes and sits on my lap and purrs away.” She faded into silence.
“I think he’ll be ok for a while yet,” I explained.
“I do hope so!” she said, her twinkle back in place. “And now, how much is today’s visit, dear? I have some money here…”
She pulled out her tired old purse and waved at me cheerily. I knew she was a pensioner, and had next to nothing to spare.
“It’s just $50 for the visit today.” I said.
“Are you sure?” she asked. “I thought it would be more than that?”
“No, that’s all for today,” I said with a smile. “I like to look after pensioners as much as I can.”
She carefully counted out the money, and I packed up and headed out to my van. Such a lovely old lady…