Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Radioactive Cat

I never thought I'd be posting a cat-related message to this blog; I am, after all, not really a "cat person." Yes, when I got married the relationship – like a minivan with a back-seat DVD player – came already equipped with a cat. And our cat, Aphra – named of course after Aphra Behn – is no more a person cat than I am a cat person. We pass like ships in the night, hailing each other usually with affection, but rarely doing the cuddle thing.

At any rate, yesterday I spent some hours dropping Aphra off at a far distant animal clinic so that she could get a dose of radioactive iodine for her hyperthyroidism. She's staying there for the better part of the week: apparently she'll be a rather "hot" cat. I was most struck by the set of handling guidelines we were given by the vet, most of which he confessed were wildly, probably unrealistically conservative measures mandated by the State government. But: "No, they're quite serious about not putting the cat litter in the garbage. Yes, they do have geiger counters at the landfill." Turns out a client of his had blithely tossed out her post-operative cat litter some years ago; the apparatchiks at the landfill detected a radioactivity source in the truckload of garbage, which they sequestered and went thru bag by smelly bag. They traced the offensively clicking cat litter back to the woman's address by means of envelopes in the same bag, and next thing she knew there were men in orange spacesuits putting "Toxic Waste" tape up around her property, and no end of red tape to be cut and explanations to be made.

Flushable litter, the alternative to letting regular litter fester in your garbage can for 90 days (the safe half-life of the isotope), is according to the vet easily diluted in the medium into which the water people discharge their waste (the ocean, I guess). But apparently landfill radioactivity has a tendency to pool down at the bottom of the landfill (that heavy-duty plastic bag layer), causing greater problems.

The landfills, as Archie Ammons recognized some years ago in I think Garbage, are the only real topographical high spots down here. Rather attractive Yucatan-style overgrown pyramids, if you can overlook the wheeling flocks of seagulls & birds of prey, & if you don't have to live downwind of them.