Monday, July 9, 2012

The Life and (Sometimes Strange) Times of a Veterinarian's Wife

Perfectly imperfect pets

By any standards, my friend Jean’s pooch, “Bruno,” was a special dog.
And by special, I mean in a “don’t-eat-the-paste,” kind of way. 
Bruno had a stumpy-legged, protruding jaw, “he’s so homely he’s adorable” appearance. He was obstinate, as well as deaf, forcing my friend, many times a day, to stand tapping her foot, hands on her slender hips, shouting down at him: 
“Bruno do you have to go out? Bruno do you have to go out? Bruno? Bruno? BRUNO!”
He was a textbook case of everything that can go wrong with a canine. In addition to his stubbornness and inability to hear, he also had allergic conjunctivitis and food allergies.
The worst of all his afflictions, however, was something veterinarians inelegantly refer to as “mega-colon,” which is just what it sounds like: a big ugly, distended bowel. Toward the end of his life, he pooped so sporadically he made frequent trips to our veterinary clinic simply to partake of enemas.
“Bruno” was a mess, so it is probably obvious that -- aside from her husband and child -- he was the love of Jean’s life.
We see it all the time. Everyone coos over a cute, fluffy-bellied kitten, certainly. But give us a mangy, one-eyed, three-legged dog with severe and stinky flatulence and we fall completely, madly, stupidly in love.
Sometimes, besides being blind, this passion is even unsafe.
My friend, Kristen, recently awoke to hear her handsome, but extremely obese, 25-pound cat “Niles,” in her words: “trying to hork up a hair ball.” 
She lurched out of her slumber, struggled to pick him up and suffered a severe strain to her collarbone. 
She’s mending, though for a period her neck was inflamed and tender to the touch. And “Niles”? 

“He couldn’t be more perfect in our eyes,” she says. “He’s a blessing.”
I understand.
Our clinic has at times been home to a three-legged cat named “Skippy,” a brain-damaged cat named “Miss Kitty,” and, most memorably, our beloved, orange and white tabby, “Sly.” 
As a kitten, “Sly” had encephalitis which caused his head to swell to twice the size of his tiny body. His future looked sketchy at best so, of course, we adopted him. He survived, but the disease left him with a halting goose step of a gait. If a dog barreled by him as he was walking through the clinic lobby he would whirl around shake his head, reconsider, and begin goose stepping in the opposite direction. 
His head was periodically bald between the ears, his lower lip was deformed and puffy. Since he never learned to bathe himself he always reeked of urine and sometimes he would shake his head hard enough -- apparently to try clear his muddled thoughts -- that he would fall down. 
We adored him.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about “Sly” -- and all the other homely, sick, unlovable-on-the surface animals I’ve known -- in light of the ghastly number of news stories about people being cruel to others simply because of their color, their politics, their sexuality, or the way they look. 
I cried over the upstate New York bus monitor tormented by those heinous middle school boys. She was harassed because she has gray hair, hearing loss, and is overweight. 
I wish I could introduce those snot-nosed, butt-pickers to our vet tech, Jennie, who adopted “Poppy,” a tiny chihuahua with diabetes. Jennie must monitor the little pup’s glucose religiously -- a quickly snarfed baby carrot once caused “Poppy” to head disturbingly close to the white light -- so she carries the dog with her everywhere and hovers like the most concerned mother.
Or maybe they’d get a clue if they met Shelley, whose beloved dog “Macy” has valgus deformity, causing her to stand with one foot at a severe right angle or Shelley’s sister, Lisa, who once adopted and gave a loving home to a beagle named “Bob,” who was tied outside and ignored so long the chain his previous owners had used to secure him grew into his neck. 
The lessons those school bus morons could learn from the generous souls who love even the most “unlovable” pets, aren’t to be taken lightly. Their parents should take note and make them spend a few days volunteering at an animal shelter. It might show them what it means to live a life filled with grace.
For the rest of us, those who already known the rewards of loving a being with a crooked limb or a gray muzzle, it’s probably enough to remember Kristen’s lesson: When picking up your big-boned feline, always be sure to lift with your legs.

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1 comment:

  1. All of those wonderful souls with their giant hearts are just part of why I miss HHFA so much!

    Please say hello to all of them for me.