Friday, October 05, 2012

I took Atticus to the vet a week and a half ago, his first trip to the vet here in Burbank. Since he's 15, I wanted to get blood and urine tests just to be on top of it when it comes to his health. When I walked into the lobby, there was a guy in there who looked to be in his early twenties, with tattooed arms and legs, bright blue eyes and an easy smile. I reached for the paperwork and only succeeded in dropping it on the floor. He picked it up for me, and I thanked him for the favor.

As I filled out the paperwork, Atticus sitting beside me on the bench and leaning against my hip, I heard the receptionist explaining treatment costs to the guy. From what I could tell, his dog had either gotten out of the yard or house, and when he found her a couple days later, she was injured and bleeding. He wasn't sure what had happened to her, whether she had been hit by a car or attacked by another animal, but she had lost a lot of blood and was in the emergency room being treated.

Atticus and I were taken into an exam room, and while we waited, I brushed him, having brought his kitty brush with me to comfort him.  After he got his tests and was returned to me, I chatted with the vet, then walked back out into the reception area to pay. On my way, I looked through the large square window in the door to the emergency treatment room, and saw a beautiful butterscotch colored pitbull, lying on the examination table with IVs and a couple of vets hovering over her. She was still awake, and lifted her head. Before, I'd asked the receptionist about the dog, and she told me it was a young one, less than a year old.

When I approached the reception desk, the same guy was walking back into the reception area from outside. When the vet assistant asked him a question, his face crumbled, and he put his head on the counter and sobbed. With no hesitation, I walked over to him, put my hand on his back and offered comfort. "I know, it's hard," I said, "I'm so sorry." He sobbed and sobbed, and as I held Atticus in one hand, I kept my other on his back, and kept telling this man, a heap of sadness, how sorry I was, and how hard it was, what he was going through. His sadness and clear feelings of helplessness just broke my heart. I wasn't going to tell him that it would be okay, because I didn't know if it would. So, I stood there until he was able to stand back up and collect himself. During this, the vet walked out, and I turned to her and put my hand on my heart. "I hate this part of my job," she said, looking crestfallen. "I can't even imagine," I said to her. And I knew she did, as she was the vet who was so caring with Scout.

A few days later, I came back to buy the prescription food for Atticus, and saw that the same young woman was behind the reception desk. I asked her about the pitbull and learned that sadly, she didn't make it. My heart sank, and I told her that I'd been thinking of that man and his pitbull for days. She said that it had really affected her too. How could it not?

I can only hope that he isn't blaming himself. It could have happened to anyone, and he clearly loved his dog. My heart broke thinking of him going home and seeing her dish, leash and food that wouldn't be eaten, or that first night when she isn't there to snuggle with him, then the first day he comes home and she doesn't greet him at the door. Just so sad.

It was weeks before I could do away with Scout's IV bag and needles. I had them in my car for when I was ready, carried in a brown paper bag with handles. I felt in a way, that it was my last connection to her. She had been treated by these instruments, and though they weren't successful for her, they represented hope. Hope that I would have her for longer, that she'd be able to live a comfortable life and feel better. Hope for more nights that she'd curl up beside me in bed. It took a while for me to let go of that hope, even though I knew she was gone. It's funny how our mind helps us cope.

Now, I'm just thankful that I got to have her in my life for as long as I did. And her gift to me was what comfort, if any, that I could offer to someone else during their time of profound sadness. 


Mark said...

You put your hand on his back and made human contact when you offered support. How wonderful you are! Long after the ache in his heart has healed, he will remember the lovely auburn-tressed lady who reached out in kindness.

Anne said...

Mark, what a sweet thing to say. It was the least I could do. I can only hope that his heart is a little less heavy now.

Robin Wendell said...

Yes, he will remember. You helped. Once when I was grief stricken a stranger gave me a hug in the vegetable section of QFC. Kindness lasts forever!