Spring Tune-up

Spring Tune-up

This post is contributed by Coastal Rivers Trustee Barnaby Porter. Read the previous post here.

Editor’s note: This piece is from Barnaby’s archive.

Seasonal maintenance of property and equipment is very important. It is one of those aspects of country life that challenges our know-how and resolve to stay out of trouble and strive forward under control. There’s no room for lethargy and procrastination around here if we are ever to keep ahead of it all. And you know what “it all” is of course.

“It all” is the soggy buildup of leaves and pine needles in the gutters that must be cleaned out. “It all” is the washout in the road that needs fixing and the ruts in the lawn that need filling. “It all” is the storm windows and screens that must exchange places twice a year. “It all” is “it all,” and there’s no end to it all.

For me, it’s mostly spring and fall as I prepare for the extremes of Maine’s climate when I find myself crawling around under my truck and oiling the door hinges on the car. The boats get painted, the lawn gets raked, the barn gets more or less organized and the chimneys get cleaned. There are days I go into something like a trance and work from morning till night, checking off chores as they are completed and kiddingly tell myself, “It’ll be a good long time before I have to do that again.”

One of those chores is our annual pilgrimage to the veterinary’s office with the animals for their spring tune-up. It’s a not-much-fun event filled with dread and imagined sufferings. Both dogs know exactly where they’re going. I don’t know how, but they do. Perhaps it’s because Deuteronomy the cat comes along too, and that’s the only time he ever goes anywhere. Last week we gritted our teeth and got on with it.

I sat in the car with the two dogs and tooted the horn a couple of times. My wife, Susan, with a ferocious look on her face, leaned out the door to tell me the damned cat wouldn’t go into the damned cat basket. “What do you mean, he won’t go into the cat basket?” I grumbled as I got back out of the car. “We’ll see about that.” Thirty seconds later, Deuteronomy was both IN the basket and IN the car. “You’ve got to do it fast!”

Now, the cat basket is just that – a wicker basket that was once someone’s cute idea of a way to transport kitties. Well, Deuteronomy is no kitty; he’s a large, spoiled, uncooperative, and very fluffy Maine coon cat who hates to ride in the car. He was out of that basket in about 30 more seconds. “See?” said Susan . . . and that was how we all rode to the vet’s – with a spoiled, scared and highly annoyed cat loose in the car.

Barnaby's cat

Deuteronomy himself.

And he took his opportunity to pay me back for all my transgressions of the past by riding on my head with his claws out. I whacked him with an envelope to get him off me, whereupon he jumped to the dashboard and wedged himself in under the sloped windshield right over the speedometer. I couldn’t see anything but fur! And we still had miles to go!

Meanwhile, the dogs had worries of their own as they drooled and furrowed their brows. They had seen me collecting the samples of dog doo-doo into little plastic sandwich bags, and anyone suspected of having worms certainly has reason to be unhappy about it.

All the way to the doctor’s, the dogs worried and the cat yowled in the most irritating manner. Susan tried to soothe them all, which effort included a little sermon to Deuteronomy, advising him that a small needle in his rump was far preferable to a full-blown case of the rabies. But none of it made much impression. The only thing any of us in that car wanted was to either put this spring tune-up behind us, or, if you asked the three patients, to just cancel it altogether.

When we got there, we hauled the dogs in first. The floor in the waiting room is slippery, shiny linoleum, and the dogs, in their shaky states of mind, couldn’t seem to get much traction – they clicked their nails and scrambled around like a couple of crabs. Once they settled down and I determined it was safe to bring in Deuteronomy, I did so with tight-lipped resolve . . . barehanded. Common sense would tell a guy not to handle a wild-eyed cat bare-handed on entering an echoing roomful of strange dogs. I was bloodied.

I could go on. The visit to the veterinary was memorable. Everyone got several shots and several pills and little hearts to paste on the calendar. Ears got looked into, tails lifted and lips rolled up to check for tartar. With a final pat from the vet and a flourish of my pen in my checkbook, we happily got back in the car and headed for home. And with that, perhaps the most important (and most dreaded) chore was checked off my list:

Animals to the Vet for spring tune-up. . . X

woodpile and rake

Barnaby PorterArtist and author Barnaby Porter has had a varied career in marine research, aquaculture, and woodworking, among others. Most recently he partnered with his wife Susan as co-owners of the Maine Coast Book Shop & Cafe in downtown Damariscotta. Barnaby currently serves on Coastal Rivers’ Board of Trustees. For more about Barnaby, click here.