Friday, May 26, 2006


In Which Alvin Gets the Boot...

The topic of neutering Alvin had come up more than once since the giant cat came to live with my aunt Barbara and uncle David, but David had resisted, mostly because he believed that neutering would compromise Alvin's effectiveness as a hunter and render him, in David's own words, "softer'n a sack of shit. Need a goddamn wheelbarrow to haul his ass around once he goes to seed."

On the other hand, having Alvin fixed would hopefully keep him closer to home, and would certainly free Barbara and David from the wrath of neighbors who had female cats. So it was decided.

As it happened, Barbara and David set Alvin's cut-off date during a weekend when my family just happened to be in town. In fact, we pulled into my aunt and uncle's driveway to say hello just as David was lumbering across the yard, walking with purpose toward the barn...

"There he is! Ol' fella, you can help me flush out the goddamn cat," he said, speaking to my father and ignoring my brother and me. David didn't have much use for kids--the last of his own had just finished high school that spring and promptly joined the Army, it being preferable to living at home, I guess.

My mom went into the house to visit with my aunt Barbara, leaving my brother and me to distract ourselves there in the yard between the house and the barn. We had brought some Hot Wheels cars along and ended up playing in the dirt with those, entering that Zen-like state kids enter when they play, the activity of nearby grown-ups receding to the very edge of awareness.

If we had paid more attention, we'd have noticed my aunt bustling about a small patio table outside near the kitchen door, occasionally interrupting her actions to gab with my mother. On the other side of the yard, we'd have heard some fine profanity coming from the barn, where my father was wedged in tight between two loose boards in the back wall of the barn, having narrowly missed snagging Alvin by his tail. Now my uncle was pulling him free, which required no small effort.

In fact, the only thing that roused me from my state was the fact that something really heavy pushed into my back, nearly knocking me into the dirt. I turned and there was Alvin, purring to beat hell. I stroked his big ol' gnarled head while my brother sprinted for the barn. Moments later, David and my dad emerged, walking as if they were on thin ice, slowly, with exaggerated steps, trying not to make any sudden moves.

"You just keep pettin' that goddamn cat," my uncle said evenly, one of the first times I remember him addressing me, although he wasn't looking at me. "Your father'n I are jus'gonna walk right by ya," he said, staring straight ahead. And for a step or two it did seem that my uncle and my dad were going to pass us by, but in a flash, they whirled at the same time, as if coordinated by telepathic signal, and pounced on either side of me.

David grabbed Alvin by the scruff of his thick neck--taking a good hunk of my shirt sleeve in too. My dad was one step after him, having collided with my brother, who was trailing them from the barn. Then Dad got behind me, intending to prevent Alvin's escape.

But Alvin didn't seem at all interested in escaping. He just kept purring and let David pick him up (tearing my shirt a little as he did, but never mind).

"That's a good ol' hoss," David grumbled in a voice that Alvin seemed to enjoy. He squirmed with pleasure as David wrestled him into a more or less cradled position in his arms. "Holy-o Jesus, he's a heavy wrigglin' bastard, this one. Keepin' holda him is like baling snot."

My dad was looking around. "You got a sack or a box or sumpin to take him in?" he asked.

Finally, David tucked Alvin securely under one of his arms like a great furry football, and looked blankly at my dad. "Take him where? The vet? You know what they charge to lop a cat's nuts off? Hell with that."

"Oh," my dad said, as if suddenly remembering something. "Cawse. You're gonna have Babra do it."

My brother, an anxious and somewhat squeamish fellow (as I think he will be the first to admit), suddenly screeched, "Aunt Barbara's gonna cut Alvin's balls off?!?"

David didn't answer him. It was a rhetorical question. As we would soon see for ourselves.

I followed the men over to the patio table by the kitchen, where aunt Barbara had been setting aside some essential tools, including what appeared to be an old straight-razor (at the time I thought it was a knife). And right then, everything in my world changed. Suddenly it was as though I was living in some bizarre mirror universe. Aunt Barbara, this funny, jovial, storytelling aunt had taken on a darker cast. Or so it seemed, watching her talk in her usual light and chipper voice so as not to alarm Alvin as the men drew closer. Alvin blinked at her and gave a deep but friendly "Reow" and continued purring as she got nearer to him and uncle David. When she was close enough, she suddenly brought her hand from behind her back.

At first, I thought aunt Barbara was holding a log in her hand, but as she moved with surprising speed, I realized it was large, old leather boot. As she swung it forward, she put her other hand behind the heel. As one, she and my uncle pushed--he shoved Alvin's head and front paws into the boot and she pushed the boot as far up over Alvin's head and paws as his bulk would allow. It was one of uncle David's old boots and so was quite big on its own. Alvin fit almost completely into it. All that was sticking out was a roll of kitty fat, a switching bottle-brush of a tale and his powerful back legs. Oh, and those giant set of balls.

Then David grabbed the bootstraps, spun it around and wedged the boot--with Alvin inside it--between his legs. Then he reached forward and grabbed Alvin's tail with one hand and his feet with the other. "Dumb bastard's still purring," he remarked.

What happened next was so fast I don't have clear memory of it. It seems as though Barbara suddenly produced a small bottle of antiseptic that she poured on Alvin's rear-end. She set the bottle on the table, grabbed the razor and, with a swift and practiced swipe, brought it across the top of Alvin's kitty scrotum.

The funny thing is, I don't remember seeing any blood. Aunt Barbara did have a rag or old towel on her shoulder and may have used it. That part's fuzzy. What's not fuzzy is that my overly anxious brother had put his head against the wall of the house and covered it with his arms, as if getting ready to start counting for a hide-n-seek game. Except instead of counting, he was saying, "Is it over? Is it over?" Over and over again. Meanwhile, my dad was standing right beside me and I heard him making strange swallowing noises and uttered the quietest "Yeowjeezuz" as he witnessed the proceedings. I was just frozen in a kind of awe. With my legs crossed.

Next thing I knew the razor was down and Barbara had the antiseptic bottle in hand again. She leaned toward Alvin, blocking my view. I don't know what she did, but Alvin sure didn't like it. He let out a single, aggrieved "RoWr!" from within the boot and began kicking his mighty legs.

"All right, that's done," she said. "Let him out so's he can breathe."

Instantly, David let the boot fall to the ground. Alvin spun twice in a circle, but he was so big he was stuck in the boot. David grasped the heel and with a quick but firm shake, Alvin was free. The cat stood there in the yard by the kitchen door, his fur ruffled, looking first to my uncle, then to my aunt, perhaps trying to work out what the fuck just happened. I thought all hell was going to break loose and that Alvin might go wild and attack somebody. Instead, he walked gingerly off to barn, occasionally throwing us a suspicious glance over his shoulder.

I had a good view of his rear-end then and something was definitely different. I assumed that aunt Barbara had literally cut off everything, but the ear muffs were still there, sort of deflated though, with just the faintest red line right above them.

Where did his balls go? I wondered at that moment, and a few times since. I didn't recall seeing any blood, anything ball-like, being removed or even disposed of. In my dim memory all I can see is my aunt with the straight razor and the small bottle. Maybe she put them in the rag and threw them out. I really don't remember.

I do remember my brother suddenly standing next to me, panting in relief. Nearby, David towered above us, still holding the boot. He had a sort of satisfied smile on his face, then looked at us and raised his eyebrows.

"All right, ol' fellas. Who's next?" he asked, waggling the boot.

We locked ourselves in the car and didn't come out for the remainder of the visit.

You'll be pleased to know that Alvin was none the worse for wear, and lived to the age of 23, not bad for a cat. He continued to be a fine hunter, although he did become something of a tubby cat after his, uh, procedure. When my aunt and uncle sold the farm some years later, the rat problem in the barn was no longer an issue, so Alvin came with them, moving into the house where my aunt would eventually inherit the town post office and install it in her living room. Alvin spent his golden years sitting on the desk in the post office, or lounging out on the porch, greeting customers as they came in. He was still alive and well by the time I was old enough to work for uncle David. At that time, I was a teenager and so knew everything. And one afternoon, while eating lunch on the post office porch and watching Alvin pad around the railing, looking for a place to settle himself, I took aunt Barbara to task for what I considered an act of animal cruelty.

She just smiled at my indignation. "You know, when we was on the farm as kids, we had to take care of the animals ourselves. Never called a vet; couldn't have afforded it. Your grandmother knew all about treating livestock, so she learned it me. I helped birth cows, slaughtered hogs, and neutered lots bigger animals than Alvin. Trick is to do it fast. Alvin weren't in that boot more than 20 seconds, you know. If I had a nickel for every ball I've cut off an animal I wouldn't need to be postmaster, now I'll tell ya."

She looked over at Alvin, the big old cat, now a lumpy fur carpet spreading across the deck.

"And he don't seem to be too scarred by the event. Are you Alvin?"

At the sound of his name, Alvin started purring and that seemed to be the last word on the matter.

But I'll be thinking about him in a few weeks, when I'm sitting in the waiting room at the urologist's. The doctor's supposed to be pretty good, and he specializes in the no-scalpel vasectomy, a supposedly less invasive and traumatic procedure that involves using the medical equivalent of a paper hole punch. In NSV, the doctor punches a hole in the skin, then fishes out the vas deferens, snips em, cauterizes em, pops em back in and seals the hole. Takes a bit longer than 20 seconds, but still it's supposed to be pretty fast.

Pretty pedestrian, huh? I honestly don't think I'll be blogging about it.

Not unless I go into the operating room and find the doctor coming at me with a huge-ass boot.

From Somewhere on the Masthead

Just reading this made me assume the position of the stork.

You know, where one leg is pulled up and you turn slightly to the side to prevent any grievous injury to the boys.

You must ask one of your parents what happened to the cat's nuts. I must know.
Wow, Alvin took it better than I figured. I guess your Aunt was a real pro and did it so fast he didn't realize what was happening until it was over.
Ok, wow. I had to read most of that with my hand over my eyes, peeking between clenched fingers. Wow. I now have an innie.
oh. my.

I also must know what happened to the... uh... medical waste?

when my spouse had the "procedure"--- he had some sort of anesthia where he didn't remember anything afterwards.. he was truly an embarrassment to society however, when he was in the recovery area. I probably bruised his face from smacking my hand over his mouth to stop the next embarrassing phrase from being heard..

good times.
Aunt Barbara = awesome.
I guess someone like Aunt Barbara might also come in handy if you don't have health insurance.
Dude. Did you have to make me squirm so much? I am now going to have nightmares about puss in boots .... :(

If that comes out of your mouth, worry.
Nooooo! Don't do it!

We don't want a timid MM. :)

I wonder if anyone ever wore that leather boot again.

Hey MM, just wanted to ask a favor of you... I've changed my URL (I'm now at Would you mind updating your link to my site so it goes to the new URL?

Thanks a bunch.

My brother used to work for a large animal vet, by way of a university. When they were called on to castrate bulls they would drug the bull and wrap a large elastic around their scrotum. Periodically they'd tighten up the elastic. Eventually the lack of circulation would cause the testes to die and, in some cases, fall off on there own.

Having someone with a sharp knife seems preferrable to me than running around with an elastic around my nuts.
We had my dog neutered very close to the end of his life, going till then on the pathethic argument that 'it just wouldn't be right' but accepting the necessity when health issues started to arise. Right after the job was done he walked around tenderly and still somewhat drunk from the anesthesia, his deflated sack hanging sadly where once it had swayed proudly.

We had to keep him from his once favorite activity of cleaning himself in the nethers till he healed up properly but once he was allowed to get back to it he knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. Much as I had feared, through that procedure something in him, and me, had died a little.

But all that's really of little relevance.
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