Sanity’s gone to the dogs
Ever wonder about people who do crazy, irrational and impulsive things? What drives them to do it? Recently, I got a little taste of what it must feel like to be on the edge.
My dog was recovering from surgery. I woke one night and his breathing was slow and raspy. From my position on the couch, I raised up on one elbow and whispered his name, “Angus.”
The breathing turned to panting, a strange sort of panting I’d never heard from him in seven years. I reached out and stroked his tidy white paw.
“Shhhh,” I said, consoling but also pleading. I wanted it to stop.
By morning, he was no better. He seemed to be declining, not improving. A return trip to the vet was made in a hurry.
The news was not good. The surgery had failed. My trusted vet advised an immediate ride to Portland for a second operation. This surgery would be performed by a specialist.
“He isn’t going to die, is he?” I croaked.
Despite the reassurances, their eyes spoke volumes.
So I loaded my beautiful, sensitive, 60-pound collie into the back of my SUV and headed south, clutching a handful of papers in one hand as I drove. I called the school where I work and told the secretary I would not “be right back,” as I had promised.
Then I called my husband at work, and gave him the shocking news. He didn’t think I should be driving, given my emotional state. I told him to pick our daughter up at school later. I had to get to Portland. I’d be in touch.
With that out of the way, I turned my attention to the papers in my hand. There were directions to the animal hospital, details about the surgery, and a written promise from our vet to pay for the emergency surgery. Amen.
Tears streamed down my face as I drove, shivering in the cold. All of the windows were open so Angus had good air circulation, but I was freezing.
I reached into the back seat and found a fleece jacket I keep in the car for emergencies. Knowing the seat belt would be a problem, and not wanting to unfasten it or stop the car, I decided to put the coat across the front of me and slip my arms into the sleeves. It worked. I felt instant warmth and comfort from the nubby, blue fleece, which resembled a straight-jacket (definitely fitting, given my state of mind).
The dark humor made me chuckle, but my joy was short-lived. My dog was likely dying in the back of my car, I reminded myself. I could see the cone collar on his neck bobbing around as he panted, and tried to call out words of encouragement. They caught in my throat.
“Good boy, Angus,” I said. “Good boy.”
He stood up, hearing me sob. Such a concerned, nervous and responsible soul, even now. He was worried about me.
“It’s OK,” I lied. “Down, Angus. Down.”
He obediently hit the deck, but his ears strained to hear any sound I might make. Fortunately with my jacket on backwards, the collar was standing up in my face, so I held it against my mouth and muffled the unhappy sounds I continued to make all the way to Yarmouth.
We were making good time when we reached the turn to the animal hospital. I could see it just up ahead. We were stopped in traffic, I assumed at a traffic light.
“We’re almost there, baby,” I said, sounding almost cheerful.
Ten minutes later, we still were sitting in the same spot. It was a construction zone and the flagger had his back to us.
This is when I felt a hint of temporary insanity. I actually looked at the large, sloping lawn of the animal hospital and gauged whether I thought my Toyota could make it over the curb, across the grass, around a tree and into the parking lot. I weighed the pros and cons. (Pro: I have 4-wheel drive. Con: airbags could deploy.)
As I pondered this crazy thought, traffic moved. I pulled into the empty parking lot and felt special, thinking we were the only VIP customers that day. After all, my vet had assured me they were waiting for us.
Just imagine my surprise when I reached the door with my invalid dog and saw a closed sign with directions to a second campus across Portland. Making a mental note of the address (mental is the key word), I got Angus back into the car and headed back into the construction zone.
Now my friendly flagger had his back to the new street I was on, and was chatting with a fellow flagger. The driver of an 18-wheeler ahead of me made impatient engine noises in an attempt to attract the flaggers’ attention. It was the kiss of death. Not only did they not turn around and let us pass; they continued to chat and kept the “slow” sign turned toward a street now devoid of traffic.
At that moment, my temporary insanity returned. I considered passing everyone and getting on the highway. I thought about leaning on my horn until the police came and a mob started beating on the locked doors of my car. And I had a vision of myself getting out and screaming, “Hey, my dog needs an OPERATION, you *&^%$#@!”
I had decided that my last choice was by far my favorite, when the flaggers remembered they were working and waved cars through, one at a time. They stopped the big rig, and before they got a chance to stop me, I sped away, cursing them with a vengeance that will extend beyond the grave.
Across town, the hospital was beautiful, and the staff so professional. Angus, however, was panting and distressed.
In an examining room, I sat on the cold tile floor next to my dog and massaged his fluffy shoulders. I put my face into the cone and kissed his soft fawn-colored face 1,000 times. I told him I loved him, and that he was a good dog, the BEST dog. Then I was surprised to hear myself say, “Soon, your pain will stop, one way or another.”
The doc was young and confident. She and the staff referred to me as his “mom,” oddly enough. They said they would give him something to relax.
“I could use a little something myself, just to take the edge off,” I joked.
The assistant apologized for being unable to help with that.
Left alone with my dog for one more minute, I hugged his shaggy white neck tight and turned his face toward me.
“You’re mama’s good boy,” I said. “I love you.”
He looked intently at me with his intelligent brown eyes and then burped right in my face. I burst out laughing just as the assistant returned.
“Yeah,” I said. “We’re done here.”
I walked out laughing and shaking my head. What a guy. He must have known I needed the comic relief.
His second surgery appears to have been a success. Angus has lived to burp another day.
And the beat goes on.