(For my father, Jim Eddington, who always knew the worth of a good dog.)
One of the best things about owning a veterinary clinic is that nobody yells at you if you take your dog to work.
Fido might not be welcome inside a bakery, say, but it’s almost mandatory to have a dog sleeping behind the front desk at the vet’s.
Of course, getting them to sleep behind the front desk is a trick. Our first dog, a doberman named Kelly, did but she also had severe, odiferous, and almost constant flatulence causing our office manager, Brenda, to apologize several times a day.
“That’s not me,” she would blush as clients wrinkled their noses and looked at her, wide-eyed. “Really. I promise. It’s Dr. Moore’s dog. She’s under my desk. Oh, whatever.”
Our second dog, Sophie Zenkman, wasn’t a tooter, but she developed a habit of happily rushing to greet clients then, just as they reached to pet her, screaming and falling to the floor, while they looked on aghast. It became a huge issue, and it took my frustrated husband, Jim, to pull me aside one day and ultimately solve the mystery.
“Sometimes it’s men, sometimes it’s women, right?
“Sometimes they are really close to her, sometimes they’re still 10 feet away, right?”
“So the only constant is that every time she does this damn screaming thing and frightens clients half to death, likely losing me precious income by the way, either the client or you or a staff member runs to the bone basket and gives her a nice crunchy IAMS. Correct?”
In comparison, our latest dog, a greyhound named Gabbanna Huffington, is a gem. She’s reserved with newcomers until they speak kindly to her, then she walks calmly to their side, leans her insubstantial weight on their leg, and sighs heavily.
Clients never seem sure how to respond to the leaning and the sighing. They generally just pat her tentatively on the head. One guy, though, understood her immediately.
“Well, hello Rickets,” he said, laughing. “I bet you could use a bone.”
Gabbi eats more than any dog we know, but she unfailingly looks like she could use a good, hot meal.
My father, always an animal lover, adored Gabbi, who came into our lives just as Dad was preparing to leave.
I would take her to visit him in the waning months of his life, as Parkinson’s disease wrecked havoc on a once, strong and vital man. His body was failing him -- I’ve lost track of the number of times he fell, the number of times he contracted pneumonia or the flu, the number of ER visits and hospitalizations -- and he missed my mother, who died two years earlier. But in those last, poignant, days, he always had a smile for Gabbi.
Often, he would save a banana from his breakfast tray at the assisted living residence and feed her small bits, which she took daintily from his hand.
“Look at that bugger,” he’d smile and say as she would lean against his leg and sigh. “She’s really something, isn’t she?”
My father signed himself into hospice on a sweltering Monday in July, 2010, after yet another bout of pneumonia led to an agonizing case of pleurisy. He died just before 1 a.m. the following Saturday morning, only half an hour after I left his side when a nurse urged me to take a break and get some sleep.
“I’m so sorry,” the shaken nurse told me on the phone. “I didn’t see any sign he would pass tonight.”
“It’s OK,” I told her. “I think that’s what he wanted.”
I was cleaning the kitchen to return to my hometown for Dad’s funeral a couple of days later when Gabbi wandered up, leaned on me and sighed heavily. There were bananas on the little wooden hanger on the counter so I peeled one to share. I handed her a small chunk, which she sniffed. Then she walked away, head hanging.
I’m not really surprised that she has never eaten a banana again.