With spring on its way, I feel like a creature coming out of a long hibernation. It’s now been more than a year since I’ve paid for a haircut or eaten at a restaurant, but there are some long overdue tasks I’m getting back on track with. One of those is taking my dog to the vet.
Our vet’s office has been extraordinarily organized over the pandemic, sending us emails with updates about their operations and regular reminders that Maeby is 3, 4, 5, 6 months overdue for her senior dog check-up. Just before the first pandemic shutdown last March, one of their emails included this amazing graphic, which I still think about regularly.
But I digress. These reminder emails arrived monthly, with the subject “important information for Maeby!” This sufficiently guilted me into feeling like I was withholding this important info from her, since she can’t read, so I finally made her an appointment. When the big day came, I put on hard pants and walked her down to the vet’s office.
Usually, when we go to the vet, Maeby and I are in the office’s main waiting room for no more than five minutes before we’re taken to an exam room, where she anxiously paces around, sniffing every corner. It’s a solitary experience. But the vet’s COVID precautions meant that most business happened outside. When we arrived, we took a seat on a bench set up on the sidewalk, beneath a canopy and heat lamp. A sign directed me to call the office to announce our arrival. Soon, two vet techs emerged from the building. “Is this Maeby?” they asked, slipping a pink nylon leash around her neck before leading her inside.
I knew I’d be waiting awhile, so I had brought a book. I read maybe five pages total; I did not expect to be completely distracted by — what a novelty! — people watching. I saw every human-dog duo entering or exiting the building, and couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their business. (I briefly wondered whether there was such thing as dog HIPAA; of course there’s not.)
There was Rosie, a graceful cattle dog (12/10), whose owner gave the vet techs a ten minute lecture detailing Rosie’s dog park routine. There was Samson, an enormous Bernese Mountain dog (is there any other kind? 17/10!), who apparently has recently been suffering from allergies. After bringing him out, the vet tech informed his person that he weighed 113 pounds. “Not too chubby!” she said to Samson, pleased with the news. The reunions were especially captivating, people’s worry or relief plain on their faces. There was the smiley Golden Retriever (13/10) returned to a young couple who immediately smothered him with pets, and the man in a suit receiving instructions from a nurse about post-surgery care for his little mini-Schnauzer (12/10), all drugged up and wearing a plastic cone around his neck.
For about half the time I was pretending to read, there was a woman who sat on the bench across from me, while almost everyone else waited in their cars. A vet tech brought out her dog, Laila, explaining that her procedure had gone well. While the tech ducked back inside to grab prescription she’d forgotten, I heard the woman talking to Laila: You did so good! We’re gonna get you some bland food, like they said! It was obvious she was saying this more for her own benefit than Laila’s; as she pet the dog, she took off her mask to give Laila little kisses.
It felt wrong to witness this intimacy without saying something, but I was also extremely out of practice with talking to strangers. So I settled for talking to Laila. “Sounds like you had a hard day,” I said in a doting dog voice, knowing Laila’s person would fill in the blanks. And she did: it turns out Laila hadn’t been eating, and the vets had to put her under so they could inspect her. Luckily, they hadn’t found anything worrying.
“Well,” I said to the woman, “I hope Laila feels better.”
“Me too!” she said, and off they went.
After a year of seclusion, distance, and minimizing contact, it was life-affirming to see strangers’ raw vulnerability up close. What’s more pure than love for your pet? Maeby has another appointment this week for her second vaccine dose — leptospirosis, not COVID-19, but strangely, our vaccine schedules are quite in sync — and I’m quite looking forward to another round of dogspotting.
#Animals #Jane #Dogspotting #Pets #Intimacy