When I’m at work, I try to be sympathetic to the fact that I am consistently doing things to pets who have no idea why this stranger is poking and prodding at them. They’re no dummies. By about the 16 week point they get the wary look of an animal thoroughly expecting to have their temperature taken.
Unless you’re one of those extremely conscientious owners who takes their pet into the vet for kisses and treats for no reason whatsoever, pets learn very quickly that when they come to the clinic, nothing good happens. There will be some sort of probe or medicine or shot, and all they want is to get the heck back out to the parking lot.
Getting older stinks. With age comes certain medically related indignities that have, if nothing else, made me much more understanding towards what our poor veterinary clients go through. Living beings are like some amazingly intricate Italian racecars, one of those ones that seems to break down more and more and get increasingly expensive to fix each time. As phenomenal and complex as a living breathing body may be, each one of those stupid little parts can fail in a fascinatingly vast myriad of ways.
I let some stranger draw on my eyeballs with a Sharpie before slicing the fronts open with a laser and burning them up. Another one stuck probes in my gums before going at my teeth with a loud drill. And don’t even get me started on what happens when you have a child. You have very little pride left after that. What vestiges remain are stripped bare, so I am told, when you have to start with the mammograms and colonoscopies.
We tolerate these things with varying degrees of resignation, or sometimes valium, because we know we must. Unless you’re in a pediatrician’s office, you’re unlikely to see the nurse wrestling a patient down so the doctor can peek in someone’s ears. We deal not because we don’t mind, but because we have to in order to stay healthy. It is the price we pay for awareness of our mortality.
Dogs and cats, however, have no such societal expectations. If you’re trying to assess the extent of a dog’s enlarged prostate and he’s not feeling a prostate exam that morning, he will let you know. Mightily. If you’re dealing with a sore cat with FLUTD who needs a cystocentesis urine sample collection, he might understandably not be thrilled at having a needle put into his sore bladder and perhaps he might try to kill the person doing it. That is survival instinct. I get it.
I really get it.
As I was at the doctor’s this morning, I found myself staring at the ceiling while the doctor, blissfully numbed to the routine nature of the examination, prattled on about the cost of veterinary care for his cat. I briefly wondered what he would do if I suddenly tried to kick him in the teeth, which is what my instinct was telling me to do. I didn’t, but it might make him more appreciative of what we contend with to earn those dollars he was so loath to part with.