In Valhalla, Kevin slumbers, fingers twitching intermittently to steal a tiny soul but as a whole, laying quiescent. The shortening days and the chill in the air tickles his nose, ending his long hibernation. He awakens. And he is hungry, the rotten jerk.
I used to love the holidays, until I became a vet. I still love the holidays, but I hate working during them. Work is the opposite of merry and gay. Work is destruction and sadness, year after year and I can’t explain why, bizarre in its consistency.
Usually the madness doesn’t rear its ugly head until well into the holiday bacchanalia, but as with elf-laden commercials sneaking ever closer to the first of the year, so does the ugliness. I walked in the door this morning to find my technician helping a person fill out paperwork to cremate her deceased cat. She wasn’t even a client. The cat had passed at home, and we are not allowed to bury pets on property in our area so she took him to us out of necessity.
Then I am handed a sympathy card for a pet I had seen last week. He was fine at the time. The owner was leaving town for the holiday and wanted us to follow up on a chronic disease that had been well controlled for over 2 years. He was good, she left for vacation, then he had a relapse and died while the petsitter was at work.
As I’m signing the card, in walks that One Pet that all vets have at their clinic, the one with every bizarre malady you can think of and a wonderful owner who lets you do everything you need to try and stay on top of them. I love the dog and I love the owner, but I always get nervous when they come in because it means something wonky is going on.
Charlie looks terrible, as does his owner. I spend an hour trying to figure out which of his problems is acting up this time- his diabetes, his pancreatitis, his epilepsy… I finally settle on an answer but have no success in helping him improve, so with a sense of hopeless frustration I bundle him off to the emergency hospital for an ultrasound. I hope I threw in the towel and got him off to the specialists in time.
So I sit, like one of those old men in the horror movies rocking on his stoop in the dusky twilight with a musket and a pipe, a lone sentinel against the impending storm. I stare off into the distance as I sit on my rocker, waiting for Kevin’s shadow to loom over the horizon. I aim my musket and spit into my bucket. I may not win, but I’m not going down without a fight. Bring it, Kevin.