Bilbo in collar and cageIn case you were wondering why I haven’t been in touch for a long time: I’ve been through a traumatic time and just not in the mood for writing.

You see, I noticed a pain in my left hind knee just when the weather turned cold last autumn, and being naïve, I gave it away with a slight limp. It was enough of an excuse for Mum to take me to the vet, who scratched his head a lot and put me through numerous tests before announcing that I had a lump in my knee and needed surgery to have it removed. I’m not sure what a lump is but judging by Mum and Dad’s mood when they heard, you don’t want to have one.

For my surgery, I had to stay at the vet’s for two whole days and felt quite woozy for much of that time. It must be something in the air there. When I was finally allowed home, my knee hurt way more than before and they put a horrible collar around my neck that stopped me from checking it out. It also prevented me from cleaning myself, from eating and even from lying comfortably. Worse: I had to sit in a cage, like a common hamster!

Naturally, after the first day or so, during which I was very tired and slept in spite of the horrible collar, I began to complain forcefully and to rattle my cage, which eventually had the desired effect: Mum let me out and even took the collar off so I could have a good clean of my paws – one of them had a large bare patch and tasted vile. I also really wanted to take a look at my knee, but the humans said no and watched me like hawks the whole time. Sometimes we played a game where I tested their reaction with the odd quick turn towards my poor leg, but I was always intercepted. I managed a long enough look though to see that I had no fur left on the whole of my leg, a nasty long cut and several funny bits of string sticking out of my skin. The awful discovery left me quite shaken, as you can well imagine. Mum said I wasn’t to touch the strings. The problem was, I found I wanted to touch nothing else! Only when she promised me the removal of cage and collar for good if I swore not to lick my leg did I agree to leave my wound alone, because how could I refuse such a deal?

Bilbo aka the hamsterBy this amiable arrangement, we made it to the day when Mum received a call from the vet to say the lump they’d removed from my knee was not dangerous. Even before she told me, I knew by the way she skipped through the room that the news was good. And just as well, because I’d already pledged I would never, ever go back to the vet’s for more treatment.

On the promise of three Dreamies to be handed over straight after my return, I grudgingly agreed to just one more short visit. The vet told me I’d done very well – which I knew already – and, while a nice, young nurse held me tight, removed the funny strings from my wound. It didn’t hurt, and when I stole a look, I saw the cut had almost disappeared and my hair was growing back already. Relief!

Bilbo looking out of the windowOn getting home, I cashed in on the Dreamies, had a good lick of my wound (now allowed) and waited at the door to be let out in the garden. To my immense dismay, I met nothing but shaking heads (they mean ‘no’ in case you didn’t know). I was not to be allowed to resume my walks and hunting expeditions for some time yet. I was gutted! It’s anyone’s guess for how long I am to be imprisoned. Humans measure time in strange, unfathomable ways and it’s no good trying to work it out. All I can say for certain is that it’s been way too long already.

I feel sure that, meanwhile, my territory has been invaded by intruders of many kinds. I spend my days sitting by the locked patio doors, watching as the birds hop about and the moles build their tunnels, undisturbed. I don’t even want to think about the bunnies happily multiplying in the field next door, or about our neighbours being overrun with rats. Because what can I do about it? When I’m not looking through the window, I sleep fitfully in sunny patches, a victim to the worst nightmares of all the appalling things going on outdoors. At night, I have to sleep with Dad who has also been evicted on account of a cold. I tell myself that each sleep is one sleep nearer to freedom, and the thought keeps me going.

My advice to all of you out there is this: try not to limp. Cover up weaknesses of any kind, because if you don’t, it’s off to the vet and you’ve seen what that leads to. I hope to be able to share happier news next time.

Yours, in suffering, Bilbo

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)