Today I gave a dog a rabies vaccine. It took an hour and 10 minutes.
Pearly was a slightly chubby labrador with some dental disease. She was genial and healthy, and there wasn’t a whole lot to do in terms of the examination. Her owner was a new client, a very sweet older gentleman. A WWII veteran, 87 years old. His joints might be creaky and his step a little slow, but man, there was nothing wrong with his lungs.
He talked my receptionist’s ear off.
He talked my tech’s ear off.
Then he talked my ear off. “Do you think my dog’s fat?” was his opener, and yes, his dog was fat, but I never got to answer him because he immediately launched into the next topic.
To be fair, it was relevant to animals, at least. He had worked a great deal with animals on the farm, and he told me all sorts of things he learned over the years- how 7-Up could fix a colic, how toasted corn would fix a retained placenta in a cow. I have no idea if those tricks actually work, but it was interesting to hear. He was paid $1 per piglet when assisting a sow in labor, back when the average daily pay was 25 cents.
We were done with appointments for the hour, so I didn’t mind just sitting and listening. He reminded me of some of the people I had met on my Meals On Wheels volunteer stint in college, and he really hit me in the soft spot- a person yearning for a human connection. So I sat on my heels and studied his face while he talked, its folds and laugh lines. His slow southern cadences, his tuft of white hair. His affection for Pearly, who I was to learn was rescued from a person who used her as fighting dog bait.
After a good amount of time, my techs noticed me still unable to extricate myself, and one of them knocked on the door to rescue me. I excused myself, then remembered I still needed to give him his rabies form. So I went up front, and he started talking again. About the military and loss, and how he lost 2 brothers to war. My receptionist shook her head at me, incorrigible softie that I am. She is right.
“I need to let you get back to work,” he finally said.
“Thanks so much for coming in,” I replied. “It was really nice to meet you.”
“You too,” he said, then: “I know I talked your ear off. Thanks for listening.” A pause. “My wife has Alzheimers. She’s had it for 18 years. I hardly ever get to talk to someone who actually listens.” He smiled a little sadly, scratched Pearly’s ears, and off they went. Before he left, I told him to please come by again, anytime.