Monday, November 19, 2012
A trip to the vet
The sky has been changing colour all day. It began a golden pink with blue streaks of thin clouds as the sun appeared over the mountains, then settled into a thin, white-gray that sometimes looked blue, sometimes silver, before becoming heavy with the more serious shade of slate. By the afternoon, as we drive along the dirt road to our vet’s office, it has brightened to a pretty pale gray that seems to bleed its colour onto the mountains, making them look hazy and far away.
The smell of cows and empty farm fields fills the car, sliding in at the back windows, along with cool, damp air that swirls at my neck and the wet sound of our tires flying over muddy roads, the odd ping of a pebble bouncing off the metal bits underneath. There have been heavy dews lately and frosts that have melted mid-morning and mists just hanging in the air, settling on things, that have kept everything wet and mucky.
In the back seat, Bear lies between the two open windows, her back legs positioned awkwardly beneath her, the way they’d finally folded after shakily standing at the window for a short time over rutted roads. We are sure she is on too much medication and our visit to the vet today is to see where the levels of her new medication sit in her system. We hope the dosage can be decreased. Bear has been quite unsteady on her feet lately and she disappears into dazes and her depth perception is all messed up, she keeps banging into things, misjudging doorways and exactly how big her feet are.
When we turn into the driveway at the vet’s, Bear pushes herself up again to look out the window, her nose sniffing the air ravenously. She is excited for exactly 40 seconds, the time it takes for us to park, let her scramble out of the car, clip on her leash and walk the five steps to the door of the little house that is our vet’s office.
It is a step up into the waiting room and Bear, who usually walks right in beside me, stops at the threshold. “Come on Bear,” I say as I step inside. But she looks the other way and I give her leash a tug. If Morgan hadn’t been standing beside her and encouraging her forward, I’m not sure we would have made it inside, but she reluctantly walks heavily into the room and then sticks herself to my side as we sit and wait.
We have been lucky all these years with Bear. Even with her double-cruciate injury a couple of years ago and a mysterious limp in one of her front legs when she was five, she has been a healthy dog; vet visits have been kept to the bare minimum throughout her life.
But then there was this summer. I have lost count of the number of times we’ve been to the vet over the last six months. Bear has been a trooper through it all, the poking and prodding, the seizures, the medications, the knowing that something isn’t quite right but not sure exactly what. She has been very brave, doing all the things we asked, going with the vet techs when needed. But today, she said quite clearly, she’s had enough.
“I’ll just take her to the back to get some blood and then we’ll meet you in the room,” says one of the vet techs. Morgan and I nod in agreement and I hand Bear’s leash to her. This is the part where Bear usually follows along slowly, her head hanging down, her tail between her legs. But today she refuses to stand.
I lift up her back end and walk beside her, taking her collar in my hand as the vet tech keeps hold of the leash. Bear drops her head down, pushes back with her front feet and we are dragging her across the floor. “It’s okay Bear,” I say.
As we round the corner of the front desk and the door to the back room comes into view, Bear goes limp, drops to the floor and suddenly weighs twice as much as she did just a moment ago. I struggle to pick up her back end and put her back on her feet but I can’t budge her, it is like she has turned to stone.
No way. I’m not doing it. You can’t make me.
“Here,” says Morgan, stepping in to take her leash. As the leash is transferred to his hand, Bear bolts to her feet and makes a beeline for the exit, Morgan just about jogging behind her.
Quick, open the door. Let’s get out of here.
It is kind of funny and sad all at the same time. And as I try to come up with a way to make this less painful I spy the container of treats on the counter. I open the lid and grab a few, ready to coax her forward with her stomach, but as I look, Morgan is already bending down to pick her up and as he walks past me with a mortified Bear in his arms, I pop a treat in her mouth, which she takes quite happily, if not absentmindedly.
You can’t do this. It’s an outrage. Ooo, I’ll have one of those.
We stay with her in the room as the vet takes some blood. It is over in little more than a second and then a quick chat and Morgan takes Bear back out through the waiting room, straight to the exit and outside.
It is pouring when we leave. Big fat raindrops, bright and almost cheerful, reflect the white sky. Mist still hangs on the mountains and the windshield wipers swish across the glass. Bear lies in the back seat with her back to us, not at all impressed with our performance, and we apologize profusely while rain flecks the window.