[Quick recap: At this point, I’m neck deep in trouble, trying to recapture this cat without either of us getting injured, and keeping myself out of the Dean’s office with only 3 months left until graduation.]
If I told you that I had anything that resembled a plan at this point, I’d be lying. The first thing that came to mind was to simply run after the cat and sort things out later, which is exactly what I did.
I knew which direction Rambo had run initially, because I heard something metal crash to the floor a couple of seconds after she got out of the isolation room. Sprinting toward the sound, I was relieved to see a broom and an aluminum dustpan lying in the middle of the floor in the main radiology ward. Considering it could have been some pretty expensive equipment wrecked by an infuriated cat, I was happy. As I started to look around in the room, I heard the sound of toenails skidding on the tiles. Turning toward the sound, I caught a glimpse of her tail as she fled the radiology ward altogether and made a hard left turn into the main hall of the Small Animal Clinic. Uh-Oh.
Because it was late at night, there were almost no lights on in the Small Animal Clinic. There are all sorts of doorways, halls, and rooms in the end of the building where the chase happened, but luckily enough for me, the faculty and staff office doors were all shut. Also, some kind soul had shut the door that led to the Large Animal Clinic as well. That limited Rambo’s options.
When I caught sight of her again, she was headed up a long, sloped hallway toward the only light source in the Small Animal Clinic at night: the Critical Care Ward. This was not good news for me. CCW is one of the few areas of the Clinic that is staffed 24 hours a day, which meant that there were going to be a few of my classmates in there. They were going to be busy taking care of animals until morning... but I’m sure that they would have taken time out to cheer Rambo on as she ran laps around the ward with me in hot pursuit.
If I was seen by any students or techs, there was going to be no way to avoid getting called on the carpet for the whole thing. The thought of that happening was enough to speed me up as I chased Rambo the length of the hallway with everything I had. Just shy of where the light spilled out of the CCW doorway, someone in the room spoke loudly enough for her to hear it. She detoured under a water fountain and stopped there, wondering what to do next. Running into more people was not what she had planned. However, it was just was the opportunity that I needed.
I never slowed down. In desperation, I ran at top speed and went into a slide like a baseball player trying to get in under the tag at home plate. My shoes screeched across the floor and Rambo spun around just in time to bite down on the raptor gloves as I reached for whatever part of her I could touch. I caught her under the fountain. In retaliation, she locked her teeth into the glove, gnawing as hard as she could. I started scrambling up to my feet with her still attached to me.
My elation over catching her was short-lived.
“What was THAT?” It was a voice from the Critical Care Ward. Someone had heard the ruckus I had created sliding into the wall and the muffled growls escaping around the gloved finger that Rambo was chewing on. If another student or tech came out and caught me in the hall, I was going to have a lot of explaining to do. With the cat in custody, I sprinted back down the hallway making as little noise as possible. I made it back into the main ward of radiology, and had to walk past the Geiger counter again. There was a longer burst of loud static this time, because Rambo and I came back by the machine a lot slower than she had on her exit. I used my foot to open the cage door and put her back inside. She took both of the gloves with her- she had her jaws welded to one and her claws dug fast into the other. I couldn’t pry her loose from either one and had to just let her take the gloves with her. After I shut the door, she decided to give the gloves back. I opened the cage door a crack and eventually fished them out between paw swipes.
So, at this point, I’ve got the cat back in the cage safely. I had just started to think about how lucky I was when it occurred to me that I may have irradiated something outside the isolation area.
I took the gloves over to the Geiger counter- no extra pops. I scanned myself head to toe to be sure I wasn’t glowing. Nothing unusual there. Then I thought about it and decided that I was going to have to check the entire area that she had run around in for any urine she might have left behind. If there was any, I was just going to have to suck it up and call my professor.
The Geiger counter and I made slow progress, sweeping the area for signs of wetness or an increase in the intensity of crackles from the machine. All the way to the water fountain, it was just the occasional click of normal cosmic radiation. Another lucky break.
A constant stream of hisses from Rambo was the last thing I heard as I replaced the Geiger counter in her room and snuck out of the radiology ward, trying to avoid being spotted on my way to the parking lot.
It was only after I got home for the night that I realized that I had successfully avoided causing a HAZMAT incident. An incident might have meant people in white suits, a van with “Biohazard” written on the side in bright orange letters, and unwanted media attention. I’m fairly sure that it would have gone on my permanent record. The vet school administration tends to frown on things like that.
Rambo went home uneventfully a few days later. A couple of weeks afterward, a piece of mail showed up unexpectedly in my vet school mailbox. It was a card from Rambo’s owner- whom I had never met, but did speak to by phone- thanking me for taking care of her during her time at
. Before you read it, you need to know two things. First, she had another cat named Raisin that was a kind and timid soul. Second, I never told her about the night of the Rambo Rampage. On the front of the card, there’s a picture of a cat that looks a lot like Rambo. Here’s what the inside said: Auburn
Hi! I can never say “thank you” enough for the love and care you gave Rambo during her stay at
! Rambo is doing great- just as talkative as ever. She was so obnoxious during her first day home, she pushed poor old Raisin out of my lap. Raisin wanted to know if we could send Rambo back to Auburn . Thanks again! Auburn
I treasure this card, and still keep it in my office 10 years later.