I took Judy to the vet as soon as the office opened at 8:00am, and already there were three other people ahead of me. As I explained her symptoms to the woman at the front desk, I tried to calm Judy down by letting her crawl underneath the wool sweater I had thrown in her cat carrier before heading out the door.
“She’s been vomiting all night, and seems really unresponsive. She won’t eat or drink anything, and her breathing seems really shallow.”
“Okay, we’re really overbooked this morning, but we’ll make sure she gets in to see the doctor. The breathing thing worries me a little.”
I peered into the carrier and said, “Yeah, me too.”
A loud man with a Cocker Spaniel came in the door, and he hovered very close behind me while I filled out my paperwork. His dog barked incessantly and kept jumping up at the counter where Judy’s carrier was sitting. Judy buried her head deeper into the sweater, and then remained motionless.
“Shush! Quiet, Dexter! C’mon Dex. Quiet! Heh. Your cat’s getting him all riled up. He doesn’t like cats much.”
Jackass. Move your stupid ugly barking dog away from my sick cat before I scratch your eyes out.
I turned Judy’s carrier away from the dog, and said, “Yeah. The feeling’s mutual, I’m sure.”
Once I had completed the paperwork, the vet’s assistant tied a little tag around the handle of my cat carrier that said, “Judy Amadeo,” and told me that she would call me when the doctor was ready.
The door opened again, and this time, an elderly woman came in with a very slow-moving dog. The woman was wearing a fur coat – fox, I think – and her hair was sprayed up in an unkempt bouffant. She had a Russian accent and too much makeup, and kept asking her dog if he wanted to sit down. But I think that both she and the dog knew that if he sat down, it would be too difficult for him to get up again, so he just stood there.
I watched the dog as he open-mouth panted and trembled, his cloudy eyes staring straight ahead. His long, matted fur was once quite glossy and beautiful, I imagined.
“Yesterday morning, he couldn’t even get up. I had to lift him up so he could walk to his bowl.” She patted the dog gently, stroking his ears, and said, “You’re tired, aren’t you Nikolai? Yeah. I know you’re tired. You don’t wanna sit down? That’s okay.” She turned to the elegantly dressed woman sitting next to her, who had an equally distinguished black Dachshund sitting preciously on her lap, and said, “I just can’t stand to see him suffer like this. He’s in so much pain.”
I was watching the Russian woman’s face as she leaned in and said something softly to her dog in Russian, when she looked up and caught my glance. I looked into her grey eyes for what seemed like a very long time.
1… 2… 3… 4… 5…
I pulled back the corners of my lips into something that was not quite a smile, but rather an acknowledgment, then looked away just in time to stop a tear. I opened Judy’s carrier and pet her underneath the wool sweater. “You’re okay. It’s okay.”
I looked up.
“You can bring Judy into Exam Room 3. The doctor will be right in.”
As the doctor examined Judy, I explained that she had been vomiting violently all night, and hadn’t gotten any better this morning. I told him that she has a terrible habit of eating things she shouldn’t, like plastic bags and string. I try to make sure they’re never accessible, but somehow she can smell a grocery bag from across the apartment.
He took her back for some X-rays and IV fluids, since she was severely dehydrated. I went back to the waiting room, to wait.
Cocker Spaniel and Collie were both gone, but Dachshund was still there. A new dog had arrived, and my heart sank again. It was a young dog, but had what looked to be an enormous scar all the way down her spine. Her tail was between her legs, and she was shaking. I wondered what awful surgery she must have just had, and thought of Judy.
A young woman with some kittens leaned over to the scarred dog’s owner and said, “Oh, how adorable! Is that a Ridgeback? She’s just beautiful!”
The woman nodded yes, and thanked the kitten woman.
Ridgeback? Not a scarred back?
I’d never heard of such a thing, but my mood lightened a bit to know that dog wasn’t there being fitted for a wheelchair.
A different vet’s assistant came out and asked for Oliver, the black Dachshund. His owner handed him over, and sat back down. Within about 20 minutes, the woman returned with the dog and said, “Here he is. We clipped his nails and squeezed his anal glands, so he should be good to go.”
I involuntarily made a slight retching noise at hearing this, when she continued, “Yeah, his glands were really full. When was the last time you had him in?”
I immediately started humming inside my head and turned my attention to the parakeet on the countertop, afraid of overhearing further graphic details of the anal glandular capacity of this once regal looking canine, who had now been reduced to wiener dog status in my mind.
That’s funny. That parakeet keeps putting his head under that bell like a hat. That’s funny. That parakeet keeps putting his head under that bell like a hat. That’s funny. That parakeet keeps putting his head under that bell like a hat.
I looked around the room and thought about how people always say that pets and their owners eventually begin to take on the same characteristics. I had to admit, it seemed to be true: The loud, obnoxious man with his equally annoying Cocker Spaniel. The old, gentle Russian woman with her disheveled, aging Collie. The young chatty couple with their talkative cats, Bert and Ernie, who needed shots before going on vacation. The well-dressed, polished woman with her well-behaved, classy Dachshund. Barring the anal gland part, they really did start to seem alike.
The vet’s assistant told me I could go back to the exam room again.
“Well, looking at the X-rays, there’s nothing blocking her intestines, so that’s good news. It really concerned me that she eats plastic bags. Basically, she responded well to the IV fluids, her skin and coat look much better, but she still seems really scared. She hasn’t vomited at all, so that’s a good sign.”
“Okay, so… you didn’t find anything wrong? Can I take her home?”
“Yeah, we gave her some antibiotics and I want you to feed her baby food for the next day or so. Turkey or beef flavored. Just a teaspoon at a time. Oh, and you should pick up some Prevacid.”
“Prevacid? You mean like the people kind? For heartburn?”
“Yeah, just give her a quarter of a tablet a day for the next two days.”
“So… you’re saying my cat has acid reflux?”
“Kind of, yeah. And she eats things she shouldn’t.”
I paid my $275 bill, carried Judy out to the car, and thought: How alike we are, indeed.
Filed under: Uncategorized on November 21st, 2005 | 23 Comments »