A splutter of fluid poured out from his mouth after a brief but vigorous spate of coughing. Moments later, he was lying motionless on the cold steel table as his once spirited eyes stared lifelessly back at us. And just like that, Dewey left us forever.
It was so different three days before his peculiar passing. Our ginger-coloured domestic shorthair cat – or less glamorously, kampung cat – was nibbling at mandarin oranges and enjoying the extra attention as he celebrated his first birthday a couple of days earlier.
Each year, Chinese New Year eve meant that we were prepared for the worst. As our home was located next to a children’s playground, we were expecting the usual; deafening firecrackers outside our windows and frightening squeals from children inches from losing their fingers.
While my wife Azura and I were accustomed to it having lived there for the last nine years, it was not the case for a 12-month-old feline whose only experience of similar loud din came from NCIS showing on television and the vuvuzelas during the last World Cup telecast.
Why the authorities continue to allow firecrackers to go off despite imposing a nationwide ban on them is best left for another day’s jotting. Perhaps they need to compile more pictorial evidence of injuries before placing them on firecracker packages.
Thus, the clock turned 12. Fireworks went to work. Dewey, shocked by the explosions, scatters to his safe spot under the sofa and possibly knocked his head in his rush or fell off from the cabinet where he was dreaming of fat juicy lizards.
After three days suffering from the loss of appetite and showing signs of unusual weariness, Dewey found himself on top of the same cold steel table. The elderly veterinarian while remaining professional was visibly lacking full attention to his immediate patient. The sizeable crowd outside awaiting his service perhaps had something to do with his eagerness to usher us out.
A quick probe, a thermometer reading, and an unconvincing declaration that he did not see anything physically wrong, the vet dismissed Dewey as in temporary shock resulting from the firecrackers and “to allow him to recover on his own over the next few days.” No medication. No request for follow-up appointment. Just RM50 fee for a hurried 2-minute consultation.
As this was a well-known animal healthcare centre that promised on its website of a “quality and dependable animal healthcare service”, we diffidently followed the vet’s advice. The very next day, Dewey was rushed back to the centre as we found him barely breathing and slumped on his side under the bed. The younger vet was looking worried as he examined our pet. He explained Dewey’s severe condition and the possible causes. He did not look optimistic.
Then came the coughing.
It has always been a bane to me that many service providers and business operators tend to lose their quality of service as their businesses expand. There is the example of a mamak restaurant in our office vicinity that previously greeted me with open arms, literally, when they first opened. A couple of months later as business picked up, I was left waiting for twenty minutes for my roti canai and warm water, and even then they got my drink wrong.
There is also the petrol station within my housing estate I had frequented when it first commenced operations. Back then, they smiled and occasionally checked the car’s tire pressure (including the spare) and cleaned my wipers and windscreen. As a petrochemical illiterate that can’t differentiate one petrol brand from another, these were the deciding factors to my continued patronage.
That lasted for three months. When asked why the removal of those earlier services, the pump attendant meekly replied, “Boss says no need to offer those services as it takes up the staff’s time and no profit from offering free services.” By then, the smile was also missing.
On the other hand, there are those that have successfully kept to their original customer service commitment despite having grown their businesses over the years. There is the more than 20-year-old nasi lemak roadside vendor operating alongside the Damansara Utama mosque that still remembers my preference of “Dua ayam, satu telur dan nasi tambah” despite not being a regular customer these days after moving out from the residential area nine years ago.
Like the nasi lemak pakcik’s recollection skills, I also continue to receive periodic communication from my first car salesman dating back to almost 15 years ago. Although Hashim has since moved up to become area manager for the company, he’s never failed to call or SMS me on how we are faring, and more importantly, how our cars are doing (we have become loyal customers to his company’s cars over the years).
As Azura and our newfound veterinarian coddle over our newly adopted family member Hajee, we can only hope that this medical specialist will be more like pakcik and Hashim when the next round of firecrackers comes around.