“Your dog has severe anxiety.” The vet gazed reproachfully at Denise over his rimless glasses.
Denise tried to focus on the vet’s words, but the crimson spritz on his grizzled neck and white lab coat…all that blood was a worse distraction than disfigurement. It begged the questions: Don’t you clean between? Or check the mirror? Do you have feeling in the nerves on your face? (when it sprayed). And what on Earth happened to your last furry patient???
The vet shook his head. “Poor thing. Poor, poor little guy. Dogs can’t tell us what’s wrong. We have to look for cues. Pay attention.” His glare said he didn’t think Denise was paying attention.
“I am. Paying attention. That’s why I’m here.”
“Tsk.” The vet’s eyes went to his silver tray of instruments, many of them long and sharp or pointy. Then he looked, Denise swore, at her neck. Her fragile, exposed neck.
She gulped. “I just got Tegan from the pound….he’s a rescue. I adopted him.” Then she stopped herself, realizing she owed this guy nothing in the way of justification. It was obvious to everyone how much she loved Tegan. She gave him lots of attention in the form of walks and play time, and she made sure he ate quality dog food. But not too much. And no rawhide.
“Severe…? Anxiety.” Denise repeated.
The vet stroked Tegan’s jet black fur. “Dogs experience separation anxiety. You work–outside the home?”
“And you think that’s an acceptable arrangement for a dog?”
“Last I checked, money doesn’t grow on trees.” Incendiary, yes. But he asked for it.
“You don’t think he gets lonely, alone, all day, with no one around to play with him or pet him? You think you’re doing right by little Tegan here, do you?”
This guy’s out of his mind.
“Tegan’s never been a problem when I’m at work. I brought him because he ate our trim on the Fourth of July. How was I supposed to know fireworks would translate into an apocalyptic destruction of my home?” Yes, it was hyperbole, but with the way this guy was treating Denise, only a literary device would be sufficient retaliation.
There was a long silence. She was pretty sure she’d ticked him off. The vet stopped petting Tegan and dug his thick fingers into the flesh by Tegan’s neck and rump. Her pup whimpered.
Denise leaned in and put her face closer to the vet’s. Like, hello? Earth to vet…? Get your paws off my dog.
The vet absently kneaded Tegan, oblivious to his whimpers. He spoke to himself. “Apocalyptic destruction, huh? You’re so concerned about your pretty little house, huh? Your stuff. Your materialistic, white-picket-fence American stuff…How about Tegan takes his anxiety out on the one who’s at fault here?”
“And. Who. Might. That. Be?”
“Before I was a vet, I was a vet.” He laughed hollowly at his own joke.
“Oh.” Denise clutched Tegan’s collar and was about to slide him off the examination table. Her aim was to launch them out the door. To abandon any pretense at normalcy. This guy officially freaked her (and Tegan) way out.
His gnarled hand clamped down upon hers. “Where do you think you’re going? Unresolved trauma does things to dogs…and people. We–I mean they–carry emotional baggage. Brutally heavy. You never can tell what will trigger us into PTSD-like behaviors.”
“Right. Thank you for your time. And your service.” She sounded strained and fake and clearly she was panicking. She yanked Tegan’s collar and he dropped from the table. Choked a little. She didn’t need to pull him. Tegan wanted away from this guy as much as Denise did.
“Don’t forget to schedule a follow-up appointment,” he said. And quieter, “Or I’ll be forced to make a house call.”
True: Denise’s Tegan suffers from severe anxiety. I don’t know how it manifests for him. My grandfather’s dog, Gin, would eat the trim during thunderstorms and fireworks.
Also true: Denise and I have known each other long enough that I can remember pushing our sons in strollers together. She loves to hike and kayak. Sunshine is her drug of choice. You can imagine how that goes for her in Northeast Ohio between the months of October through May.
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