My head is bowed and I'm frantically blinking. Anyone watching may think me a tad peculiar. In any other context I'd probably look completely insane but in Thornbury Hospital there may just be a few other relatives who understand and appreciate the sentiment behind this repetitive action.
Blinking is a sign of affection and friendliness between cats so right now I'm using it to try and keep a slightly stressed Major calm. An enormous dog enters the surgery and sits opposite us because we've of course managed to sit away from the “dog free” section. He's panting heavily and drooling to such an extent his owner has a large handkerchief to wipe his mouth free from spittle. To me, the dog looks like he could do some serious damage but his owner rather sadly informs me, he's old so slow-moving and having been attacked in the past, is afraid of anything smaller than him. Although I'd feel intimidated to be confronted by this dog, from the safety of his carry cage, the Maj is contentedly blinking away at him. “Major Richard Parker,” one of the receptionists calls with glee and it's finally our time to go in.
A week later, we're back and this time, the surgery is almost empty. Waiting to be reunited with a slightly shaven Maj who's been scanned and kept in all morning, we can't help but overhear a telephone conversation: “At six weeks, he needs waxing and then it's castration... ” The guy opposite has just walked in and these are the first words he will have heard – we exchange slightly alarmed looks. In any other context, our reactions would go well beyond slight alarm but here, we presume and hope the receptionist is talking to a pet owner and not about her husband!
Reconciled with a hungry Maj, we go through the motions before leaving: “I love his name. It's such a good name – where'd you get it from...?” asks yet another receptionist. After explaining one tenuous link and the obvious reference, we head out. She seems amused and I'm amazed, having just overheard one final shocking piece of information - a castration costs a mere £44 (at least thirty pounds less than a cat scan!).