Creature Comforts

The following transcript is from an eyewitness account of strange events occurring in the Daverio home on Oct. 2, 2005, catalogued in the CSI Williamsport Cold Case Files. Subjects present: wife and husband (both off-duty veterinarians), three young children, and two indoors-only cats. Case status: unsolved.

“Who’s bleeding?” my husband said.

“What?” I replied, not sure I heard properly. The TV was on, three children were chattering in the other room, and I was busy in the kitchen doing breakfast dishes. One does not expect such a question really anytime, but especially not when there is seeming harmony on a beautiful Sunday morning.

“Where’s all this blood coming from?” he said from our little office off the kitchen, sounding more distressed. I heard him loud and clear this time. I stopped what I was doing to look in on the children. They (ages 2 and 4) were happily showing off for their eight year old cousin while they all ate their breakfasts. Nobody was hurt or even seemed aware of the conversation about blood, thank goodness.

I joined my husband in the office and looked over the scene, still wiping my wet hands on a dishtowel. There were big, fresh drops of blood, smears and spatter all through the office, and in a trail that went through the cat door into the basement.

“Must be one of the cats,” I concluded, brilliantly. Since everybody else in the house was accounted for and uninjured, I was relatively certain about this. The added fact that nobody else could fit through the cat door intact helped support my theory.

My husband followed the blood trail down to the basement, where he found both cats, looking perfectly healthy. He came back upstairs, armed with his beloved Clorox wipes and began cleaning up the mess. Or, as I call it, tampering with the crime scene. When he was finished, the area wasn’t just clean – it was sanitized. Unfortunately, he performed his cleaning magic before I had a chance to run the scene and take pictures for evidence in a formal forensic investigation.

I went down to the basement to check things out for myself. Wyatt was perched on a shelf, looking normal. Virgil was on a taller shelf, looking up in the rafters and acting surprised to see me. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they had caught some little animal, injured it, played with it, and then let it escape into the basement ceiling. Given our recent experiences, I was guessing it was another bat. I did not expect to find the creature. I did expect we’d know its scent soon enough, as its final resting place would be the space just under our living room couch.

Wyatt’s feet and tail were very dirty and blood-smeared, but his face, mouth and neck were clean. Virgil was simply guilty-looking. o, here’s how I figured things went down: Wyatt finds the bat. He roughs it up a little, but snatches it up in his teeth and runs down to the basement to keep it from Virgil. He lets it go, perhaps accidentally, perhaps to toy with it a little, and the bat makes a break for it. Virgil steps in, but he’s slightly slower (in more ways than one) than Wyatt, which explains the alleged escape.

If they could speak English, Wyatt would be the one saying, “You fool – you let him get away!” And Virgil, playing the part of the brawny henchman, would look sufficiently chastised.

Wyatt earned himself an impromptu bath in the laundry sink, which he disliked immensely. How he could have gotten so much blood and dirt on his tail was beyond me, but he was not about to make it easy for me to clean it. I ended up just as wet as he.

I towel dried him and carried him up to the kitchen. He hit the floor running and bolted upstairs to my bedroom without stopping. Obviously, he was fine, except for his pride.

It wasn’t until later in the day that I began to feel my injured bat theory may have been flawed. It was late in the afternoon, and Wyatt hadn’t been seen since he ran, humiliated, up to the master bedroom. I found him clean and dry, curled up on the bed. I sat with him for a few minutes, and noticed a few small fresh blood spots on the blankets.

Much to Wyatt’s dismay, I performed a much more thorough physical examination than I had done before. Every time I touched a bloody, swollen spot on his tail, Wyatt yelled and tried to run away in a panic. Being an excellent diagnostician, I determined that Wyatt had injured his tail. And since the last half of his tail beyond the swelling was limp, I went one step further, and suspected a fracture.

The radiographs (X-rays) of his tail confirmed he’d broken one of the bones in the middle of his tail. Snapped like a twig. How? No clue. I guess the real crime scene investigators might have been able to reconstruct the crime, but I’m having a hard time making up a story that fits. I was simply grateful that the kids had no idea what had transpired. The only way to keep children away from a crime scene is to wrap them bodily in crime scene tape, which, thankfully, wasn’t necessary on this occasion.

We splinted Wyatt’s tail using medical tape, a tongue depressor, and some elastic bandage material. It may not sound technologically advanced, but it worked. When Wyatt hopped out of his carrier after his incredibly stressful and insulting day of being held down, x-rayed, and bandaged, he was in for another big surprise. A strange, light blue THING was following him everywhere. He tried to run, but it was no use. He turned, bravely to face it, thought better of it, and then ran again. This went on until he got used to the idea that the bandage would not go away.

After two days of admitting defeat and acting quite sad, he started to come around.

Several weeks after the injury, he was able to hold his splinted tail up like a flag when he chose, particularly as he trotted through the room to beg for his breakfast.

He was back to romping and wrestling with his brother. And aside from working diligently to remove the bandage himself before it was supposed to come off, he healed up just fine.

We may never know what really transpired that morning. Our star eyewitness and apparent victim wears fur all year round, sleeps 18 hours a day and refuses to say anything but “meow.”

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column prints every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at life@sungazet