Monday, February 21, 2011

Greta visits the doctor

Yesterday I took Greta in for her annual vaccine and check-up. She didn't see it coming even when I took her special red bag out of storage and cleaned it out; it's been so long since we've had an outing that she apparently forgot what the red bag was for.

Greta's doctor's office is right near my main bus stop and subway station. It is called the "VIP Animal Clinic" and doubles as a shop for various food, treats, toys, outfits, and other sundries. I think they also do some grooming.


The waiting room is filled floor-to-ceiling with pet-related products. There are also several glass cases in which they keep animals awaiting pick-up. They don't sell animals, but they do occasionally take in stray kittens and put them in one of the glass cases until they can find homes for them.

Gagame, the clinic mascot
This is Gagame, a gorgeous floofy Himalayan who lives at the clinic. I always watch for him in the window whenever I walk by. When Gagame is in a good mood he will let customers play with him, and sometimes he can be seen staring out the window on frosty mornings. But he generally stays aloof in his play-area when there are lots of frantic, quivering dogs in attendance, as was the case on this visit.

Moments after this photo was taken, the little dog in the glass case unloaded a massive pile of poo.
Greta's checkup went smoothly, although as usual she shed profusely (something she does when stressed) and kept trying meekly to wriggle out of the doctor's grasp. We've had a different doctor each time, but they are all just as nice as can be. As usual, she cleaned Greta's ears out with gauze and trimmed her toenails.

"¡No me gusta!"
Then it was time for the big shot. Greta got through it stoically without making a peep, and then gratefully climbed back into her red bag. The total cost for the vaccine and check-up came to 35,000 won - about $31.

See you next year, Dr. Big Mean Lady!
Unfortunately I don't have any photos of our old animal clinic in Kyoto. Actually we had two of them - one small place right across the street for dealing with small ouchies and vaccines, and a larger, more modern facility about a 15-minute bike ride away, where we went for major operations like getting spayed and prepping to leave the country. Our facility in Seoul is easy walking distance from our home, and so far it has sufficed for all of our needs. Greta hasn't ridden in a bicycle basket since she left Kyoto!

A lot of people have asked if it was difficult to take Greta from Japan to Korea. Honestly, I expected it to be a lot harder than it was. There was a fair amount of paperwork which took some time to prepare, but my local clinic helped with all of that. The biggest inconvenience was that we had to get her vaccinated for rabies and get her antibodies checked at least one month before departure. Because there is no rabies in Japan, she had not been vaccinated before, so she needed proof of antibodies before leaving the country. To do so they had to extract an unbelievable amount of blood from her tiny body; we had to tap veins in three of her four legs before we could get enough. At least Greta is a small, fairly calm kitty and can't struggle much; my friend Hijin's cat, Kiki, is a large male and it reportedly took 4 assistants to hold him down for his blood test.

Anyway, the test went fine, and after that we just had to do another check-up at the clinic in Kansai airport just prior to departure. Of course, I also had to get permission from the airline to take a cat aboard, and it added about $40 onto the price of my ticket (they charged by weight). And I had to hold her in my arms while going through the metal detector. On arrival at Incheon, I presented myself to the animal quarantine authorities, who gave a cursory glance at our paperwork, smiled at Greta, and waved us through. We were officially immigrants!

The hardest part for me was knowing how much stress I was causing my poor kitty. Greta was so good the whole time; even though she was clearly scared, she just hunkered down in her carrying case and stayed very quiet. I fully anticipate taking her on another international move at some point in the future, but now that we've done it once I feel fairly confident about getting through the process again. Greta, for her part, has completely settled into her new home, and I doubt she even remembers Kyoto, although I am careful to ensure that she preserves her identity as a "Japanese kitty."