Thursday, April 17, 2008

An Afternoon at the Vet

It all started innocently enough. We were tired of shopping on Tuesday afternoon and decided that arriving around 4:00 and reading for a bit in the pretty waiting room would be fine. Prettiest Cat, we were told, should be ready to go home between 4 and 5. So we wandered in to the bright waiting area and found that some benches were padded. Gravitating in that direction, Friend told them we were there and we sprawled, arranging the hair-covered pillows comfortably, to read.

I finished revising a paper and tucked the folder back in my bag before withdrawing a novel. I glanced across the room to find Friend focused on her giant science fiction tome and settled in to read my more frivolous selection. Someone came in to buy food and a couple arrived to see an elderly golden lab who wandered out from the back. I smiled as he wagged his tail at them, walking over to lean against the woman’s legs as she absently patted his head.

“So you don’t need him until Friday?” Her husband asked. “Can we take him home until then?”

“Sure,” the tech replied. “Let me go get his things.” She returned with a half-empty bag of kibble and two squeaky toys. I grinned when his tail began to move again at the sight of his belongings. He followed the couple out the door and I felt all warm and fuzzy when I returned my eyes to the pages in front of me.

Another couple arrived with news that the food they’d purchased wasn’t agreeing with their pet. A long discussion ensued with choices of brands and sizes and flavors and dry versus canned. They were sent home with several options and told to return with a better idea of what worked. Sometime during the moments spent examining labels and discussing vomiting probabilities, there arrived a teeny-tiny dog. He was no larger than my hand and squeal-inducingly adorable. The food-choice woman ended up on the floor while using her highest pitch voice to tell the puppy how cutesy-wootsey he was and how itty-bitty and lovey-dovey. I glanced across the room at Friend and grinned widely.

It went downhill from there.

“Tyler’s ready for you,” the receptionist noted when a woman with lovely curly hair came in. “I can’t make eye contact with him - he just looks so ready to love and cuddle someone that it breaks my heart to leave him back in the kennels.”

“He is good at making people pity him,” The curly haired woman smiled at the news of her pet. “Did he wave his paw at you? That’s what always gets me.”

The receptionist shook her head and returned my smile before I glanced down at my book. Curly Haired Woman walked out to her car to get x-rays then returned to sit down. A man walked in not long after and fidgeted on the bench next to me. I glanced up and offered him what I hoped was a reassuring smile and he returned it weakly before getting up to pace.

“Seamus is ready for you,” the specialist vet said, walking briskly into the waiting room with her ponytail secured neatly at the nape of her neck. I liked her a great deal, telling Friend I was impressed and being reminded that it cost $125 to walk in the door. I nodded with understanding. Sun drenched, non-smelly waiting rooms with polite office staff and brilliant professionals cost money. “We were able to biopsy the lymph node,” the vet told the man as they moved to one side of the room and away from the three of us who were still waiting, “and though I’m not a pathologist, I’m nearly certain that it’s cancer.”

I frowned but continued to stare at my book, not wanting to intrude on his receiving such news. The vet talked about drugs and options and how the news wasn’t as bad as it could be.

“So we caught it early?” the man finally said and his voice quivered. I winced and glanced across the room at a frowning Friend.

“Well, no,” the vet said, not unkindly. “Early would have meant that it hadn’t spread to the lymph nodes. At this point, it’s spread throughout his system, though he doesn’t appear to be in any pain.” She continued to explain while Seamus, a spaniel mix with curly, brown hair on his big, floppy ears, walked around the room.

“Hi,” Friend offered dryly when he placed his front paws on her knees. “She’s the one who likes dogs,” she motioned to me and I made kissing noises until he walked over.

“Aren’t you sweet?” I asked him, trying hard to sound happy and not heartbroken. “Yes, you are. You’re just a precious puppy.” He soon grew bored with my compliments and began to explore further. He’d entered the back rooms before his person called to him and he wandered over, tail wagging.

“If I’d brought him earlier,” his person said as the dog continued to walk toward him, and then his voice broke as he began to cry. I looked up and winced with sympathy. Ducking my head again, I peeked over to see him rubbing his dog’s side as one of the techs brought him a box of tissues. “He’s like our first child,” he said, sobs still interrupting his words. “I should have known earlier and done more.”

The vet offered comfort and assured him they didn’t think Seamus was in pain. They would be in touch with the final results of the biopsy. Seamus and his person walked out of the waiting room and I brushed the tears off my cheeks and watched Curly Haired Woman sniffle into a tissue.

“Are you OK?” Friend asked me and I nodded.

“It’s just so sad,” I said softly and she nodded at me.

Tyler was up next, a very chubby beagle who waddled out from the back room, utterly pleased to see Curly Haired Woman who cooed to him immediately.

“We were able to flush a lot of the stuff out,” the vet said, “but I was pretty aggressive so the bleeding will probably continue for tonight. So keep up with the pain medication and don’t be alarmed if his nose bleeds a bit.”

“Hey, Tyler,” I greeted him when he waddled over to me, his body swaying as he moved his short, little legs. “How’s the good boy?” I patted his head very gently and sternly told myself not to react when bright red blood splattered out of his snout and on the floor near my feet. He headed out the door with his curly haired woman a few moments later, pills and paper towels in her free hand and I fidgeted for a moment before wandering up to the desk.

“Hi,” I said to the receptionist and she smiled back at me.

“You’ve been so patient,” she told me. “I’m so sorry about the wait.”

“Oh, no,” I waved my hand. “They said Prettiest Cat was having some trouble waking up so we knew we’d be waiting. And you’ve been lovely, really. It’s no trouble at all. I just wondered if I could maybe have a paper towel? To clean up some of the blood from Tyler’s nose? It’s making me a bit queasy.”

She immediately rose from her seat and bustled around the counter with a wad of paper towels while I protested that I could do it myself.

“Of course you won’t,” she scolded, bending over to swipe at the dribbles on the floor. “You’re already my favorite patients for being so nice and quiet, but you will not clean up messes here.”

“Well, thank you,” I said and frowned when she moved away. “Actually, there’s more right here,” I called after her. “You missed a spot!”

“Is she yelling at me?” Receptionist asked Friend with a teasing smile when she came back with a spray bottle. “I was just going to get water, honey,” she said. “I’ll get it. Calm down.”

“Oh,” I said, chastened but smiling. “Sorry. It’s just turning my stomach a little,” I told them and Friend rolled her eyes before Receptionist offered another smile and asked if the floor was now clean enough. “Yes, thank you,” I offered primly and grinned.

Prettiest Cat was the final patient released for the day and I peeked in her carrier to say hello while Friend got news of crud in her head and pneumonia and low oxygen levels and pills for some of the respiratory issues and drops for the ruptured ear drum.

“Hi, love,” I said softly as I looked inside the carrier, finding her arranged on her bed with one black paw raised. “Is that a bandage?” I asked of the pink thing around her arm that was clearly offending her regal sensibilities. “Are you doing OK? The hard part’s over,” I assured her. “We get to go home very soon.”

I drove Friend and her feline back to their house, pleased that the diagnosis wasn’t dire though I wondered if it would firm up when the results of the crud culture came back. We had some dinner and went to fill a prescription for the ear drops. Then I took my leave, heading home toward a cat who hid under the bed before deciding I could once again be trusted and a dog who was beside herself with frantic joy.

I patted the bed beside me that night, coaxing Chienne up from her place at the foot of the bed and curling around her to kiss her head. “I love you,” I told her and continued to rub her belly while I offered prayers for the dogs and cats and their families. “And you can’t leave me for a long, long time. Promise?”

I took the swipe of her tongue on my chin for agreement. And I'm holding her to it.


PhysioProf said...


Nice word!

Seeking Solace said...

What a sweet story.

PhDLadybug said...

I totally understand! We love them soooo much.

A hug to all of you!:)

Citronella said...

I'm so glad it was Seamus' person who received bad news and not you. Even though my eyes went kind of wet when I read about it.

Amanda said...

I'm so glad that Prettiest Cat's diagnosis isn't dire. I'm hoping that the crud doesn't turn out to be anything.

CAE said...

What a sad and sweet post. I wish you many more years of happiness with your furry friends.

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