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VCA Animal Hospital

on November 23, 2009

There’s something about waiting rooms; all that time and nothing to do but listen to the radio love songs and read trashy magazines. It leads to speculation—about men, life, student loans and bunny-killing felines.

Or at least that was the scene in the waiting room of the VCA Animal Hospital, which is on 45th and Shattuck, at 9 am.

“Do you guys treat chickens?” said a woman in a bright pink sweater and black body warmer.

“No, we don’t here,” said the receptionist, in her practical orange smock. “I think the Montclair vet treats chickens.” The sunny room was filled with shelves of pet shampoo, Science Diet and chicken-flavored toothpaste.

The lady with the chicken query rejoined her friend and Ella, the patient the friend had brought. Ella is a cat, not a chicken. She was suffering from a swollen eye.  She was voluble nonetheless and participated in much of the conversation throughout the 35-minute wait.

“How’d you manage to persuade him about the chickens?” inquired Ella’s keeper.

“Honey, give me eight months and I can persuade him about anything,” her friend said.

On the radio, the singer was approaching another high moment of pain and suffering: I know just what you’re saying, so please stop explaining, don’t tell me ’cause it hurts.”

Ella, who was boxed, yawled along. She could relate.

“It’s OK,” the chicken inquiry lady said, and meowed sympathetically.

“It’s not,” her friend said. “Don’t lie.”

Ella growled.

A man in a cowboy hat sat across the way. His skin was translucent and he scribbled in contemplation; he was drawing ink pictures in a leather-bound book. His carrier box was quiet, as was he.  A woman in a black suit had brought her Labrador and was on her cellphone.  A middle aged Asian couple entered in identical blue hats, the woman’s arms full of brown fur and pudgy pedigreed cat face, and there was a brief dustup with the receptionist, who observed that all cats were supposed to be inside containers, but the lady said her cat would freak out without her and the receptionist sent them to a private waiting room and her husband sat down next to the “Pet Pain Management” leaflets.  Calm was restored.

“Those bunnies are so cute,” said the chicken inquiry lady, looking at a rabbit poster.  “I wouldn’t get a bunny here.   Too many cats in my neighborhood.  They eat them, you know.”

Her friend raised an eyebrow. “Cats eat bunnies?”

“They chase and eat bunnies,” the chicken inquiry lady said.  “My cat Ernie used to eat bunnies all the time.”

She settled in for the story.  “He killed big bunnies, but he ate the little ones,” she said. “In fact, one Easter I took Ernie to my parents’ house. He went straight out and found a nest of baby bunnies. They screamed like babies.  It was awful.”

The cowboy’s name was called and he rose to enter the surgery. His carrier box turned to face the two friends. A fluffy white rabbit looked out.

The two women went silent.

Celine Dion finished up a muted rendition of All By Myself on the radio. A pregnant African-American woman came in with a poodle puppy that couldn’t stop bouncing. A couple entered with an enormous fluffy grey cat for a grooming appointment. They snuggled at the reception counter as they waited.

“I’m from Chicago, where no one would keep chickens in their apartments,” the receptionist said, between registering patients. “But I guess this is California.”

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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