Note: This story is the first of a series by Jacqueline Simon Gunn called Stranger Than Fiction, where she shares with us true stories of her life.
911 Operator: “What’s your emergency?”
Me: “I hope you can help me. I think my cat injured a mouse in my apartment and the mouse is running around squirting blood everywhere. I don’t know what to do. Can you please send help?”
This was a lie, but I didn’t know what else to do. There was blood everywhere. My apartment looked like a murder scene. I was scared.
911 Operator: “Okay, we will send someone over. What’s your location?”
Ten minutes later two uniformed policemen arrived at my door…
Prior to calling 911, I had called all over Manhattan for an ambulatory medical service for animals. There were none. This was unbelievable. In a city where almost anything can be delivered — groceries, laundry — there was no service to help transport pets to the veterinary hospital. I was beside myself with angst; and despite my relentless efforts, I could not get Snoopy —my treasured cat — into his carry box.
When I was on the phone with the Animal Medical Center, pleading for assistance, the woman on the phone could hear Snoopy growling and meowing in pain. “You had better get him here fast. He could bleed to death,” she said, sounding quite alarmed. My heart was racing, my throat closing, “I can’t; I’m trying, but whenever I go to pick him up, he growls and hisses in pain.” The voice on the line tried to offer some get-your-cat-into-the-box-while-bleeding-to-death-tactics, but none of them worked. I said I would get him there somehow and hung up. I then attempted to calm Snoopy down by speaking softly and stroking his neck, which seemed to help momentarily; but as soon as I tried to lure him into the carry box, he began hissing again. Then in a panic, I made the 911 call.
Looking back, retrospectively on the events of that evening, I can see the irony — the shrink whose cat ate his own tail. At the time of the incident, however, humor was not in my emotional repertoire; it was the furthest thing from my mind.
When I opened the door to my apartment that evening, I was expecting to be greeted by the usual warm furry rubs and purrs that I always looked forward to at the end of a long day. This was a ritual that Snoopy and I shared; it was an indication of our strong bond and it was a routine that I had come to depend on. But what I saw when I released the door knob that evening was a bloody scene akin to a gruesome horror film. The white linoleum floor was completely covered in bright red blood. There were swipes of red all over the lower part of the refrigerator, the bathroom and even on the wood floors in the bedroom. Caked in the blood filled rooms of my apartment was something. At first I couldn’t identify what it was. It could have been feathers from a bird, which had somehow magically flown in while I was out. Or was it something internal from Snoopy’s body? I wasn’t sure. My fear and agitation were grossly affecting my ability to process the situation with any clarity.
When Snoopy came to the door to greet me, he looked like he was sweating. His fur was moist and stuck together and he was making a growling sound like I had never heard before. Terror washed over me. I bent down to stroke his back, he was meowing loudly, and then I noticed that there was soaking wet blood covering the frayed tip of what was left of his tail. Snoopy’s tail was gone and there was a pool of continuous blood pouring out of the tattered part that remained! The ‘something’ caked into Snoopy’s blood was tufts of fur and muscle that he must have been chewing off for hours while I was at work.
What happened? My immediate thought after noticing the horror of his missing chewed off tail was that there was another uninvited animal in the apartment that attacked Snoopy. This was a short lived hypothesis that was quickly invalidated when suddenly, Snoopy began hissing like crazy and running around in a circle trying to attack what was left of his mostly eaten tail. There was nothing left that he could reach, but he persistently kept trying. He looked like a wild animal attacking his prey. It was spine-chilling and I didn’t know how to help him. That’s when I pulled out the phone book and started calling all over Manhattan. Unable to receive the help I needed, and in a desperate frenzy, I decided to call 911 with the injured mouse story.
When the two policemen came into the apartment they too were horrified. Their strong reaction of alarm made me feel a bit better. I was worried that they would think I was some spoiled, histrionic, overly-emotional crazy cat woman. One of the officers had to leave the apartment indicating that the scene was too upsetting. He stated, “I hate these animal calls. I have two cats at home and I have never seen anything like this. I can’t stay.” The other officer attempted to place Snoopy in his carry box, but he couldn’t do it either. He then called in the S.W.A.T. team.
A team of four very serious looking men in uniform came into my apartment with boxes full of equipment. Unlike the two police officers, these men were not friendly. “Where is the cat?” one of the severe uniformed men asked. Snoopy was cowering in the bathroom, behind the toilet bowl, wailing; his blood was discharging rapidly all over the floor. “He’s in the bathroom,” I squeaked. I anxiously observed two of the men go into the bathroom. One was carrying a long stick with a noose at the end. I put my hands over my eyes; I was afraid to look; I was holding my breath.
While we were waiting for the S.W.A.T. team, the police officer warned me that the squad was aggravated that they were asked to respond to the call; it wasn’t as critical as the incidents they typically responded to. So I wasn’t surprised by their stern demeanor. Apparently, they had just rescued a man who was about to jump off the George Washington Bridge. I heard one of the men grumbling about it under his breath.
“We got him,” one of the men said. His voice was so deep and powerful; it was calming. “He’s in his box,” the man stated as he was packing up his stuff. The four men swiftly exited; the policeman offered to drop Snoopy and me off at The Animal Medical Center. I was incredibly grateful and graciously accepted his offer. I grabbed a long sweater and my bag. We got outside just in time to see the S.W.A.T. team’s vehicle pulling away. It was massive; it was a tank that practically took up the entire width of the narrow street. Neighbors were crowding outside looking to see what happened. We maneuvered through the group of curious onlookers; and within seconds Snoopy and I were in a speeding police car. The siren was blasting as the driver navigated the traffic along the busy New York City streets.
Once we were at the hospital, the veterinarian took Snoopy into urgent care right away. I waited, trying hard to be patient, but I was still freaking out. About twenty minutes later, I gratefully learned that Snoopy would be fine. They would have to remove what remained of his tail (there wasn’t much left anyway), but there was no internal damage and the vet assured me that Snoopy could live a full and satisfying life without a tail.
The vet speculated that Snoopy had caught his tail on something and then he began attacking himself in the injured area. “Sometimes cats self-mutilate when they are in pain,” he explained. This made sense given the way I saw Snoopy running around in circles trying to attack himself before the police came. I surmised that perhaps Snoopy didn’t realize that it was his own body that was causing the pain, but rather was attacking a phantom perpetrator that he thought was attacking him.
Another possibility—and being a psychologist, I just couldn’t resist—is that Snoopy had some emotional problems. He was a very complicated kitty and I found it entirely plausible that he had an emotional outburst. I had been away the week prior to the tail-eating incident, and it was the first time I left him alone for over a week. I will always wonder if he had a reaction to our separation.
Snoopy did live a very full life without his tail with lots of eating, pouncing, napping, belly rubs, head-rubs and cuddling. Close to a year ago Snoopy became very ill with cancer and I had to put him to rest. He went to sleep peacefully purring in my arms. I still miss him every single day. It is amazing how bonded humans can become to their pets. Snoopy was a very special kitty; he brought so much joy to my life and I will remember him always.