I really didn’t want another dog.
Y’know that old joke, the one where various people are having a discussion about when life begins (conception, etc), and the old couple has the punchline about life beginning when the kids move out and the dog dies. At this point in my life I’m still not looking forward to when the kids move out, nor do I want the current canine to croak, but when my previous dog died, I have to admit that I was in no hurry to get her replaced.
I had had my own dogs since my junior year in college. After around 35 years of owning various hounds, arctic breeds, retriever crosses, herding dogs, my 16 year-old Australian Cattle Dog, Maddie, was euthanized on a 4th of July. This was just slightly less than a month before my best friend died after a bout with a cancer caused by the radiation that had cured his previous cancer around 20 years earlier. When Mike died, we had been friends for nearly 4o years.
It’s not an astounding revelation that you don’t get to go back to sixth grade and make another decades-long best friendship. You’re just stuck with that permanent sense of loss that occurs when you realize nothing can ever be the same again. I will never have a best friend who was around since I was 10. I suppose that this isn’t astounding. We all know it will happen. Everyone gets to this point, some reach it quite early in life.
Mike had just turned 50, and I was just about to do the same. Plain and simple, I didn’t want another dog. As a veterinarian, I had usually counseled clients to get back into the saddle (more often than not a new pet helps ease the pain of the loss of the old one), and although I had always followed that advice myself, when my best friend died I decided that I was done. I wasn’t in the mood for any more loss. Life brings enough loss without going out and purposely adding to it.
But Jolee bugged me. And bugged me. And then bugged me some more. And went after this the way that only a child who wants a dog can. Then she started finding dogs on PetFinder.com. She worked on my guilt about the divorce. And then I broke. I should’ve known better. I’m a veterinarian, the guy who is on the other side of the exam table when the exasperated parent–usually a mother–comes in and says, “I told them they could have a dog if they would help take care of him!” To which I usually answer, “And you had what evidence to actually believe this claim?”
The truth is that no matter how much kids promise, they are going to fall short. Usually they are going to fall way short. And then they will probably leave for college before the dog dies, which means you’re stuck with the difficulties of caring for the old dog, with his arthritic joints, incontinent bladder, bad eyesight, and failing cognitive abilities. The kids are alright: they do have good intentions. They just have really poor followthrough combined with an inability to accurately assess their desires and capacities. There are a lot of stories about the strong bond between a child and a dog. But no one writes stories about when a child’s interest in the dog gets hijacked for interest in something else (sports, hormone-induced wackiness, cars, music, delinquent behavior. . .) The problem is that it takes forever to say no, but just a few moments of delusion or weakness to say yes. And in general, parents love to say yes.
But I’m digressing. This is about my son’s birthday, my dog Kaleb, who is a total maroon, and the chocolate cake. Every 16 year-old should have a chocolate cake for breakfast on this momentous occasion. Took it out of the refrigerator, put it on the counter, put the 17 candles on (one for good luck), and went upstairs to brush my teeth. Return downstairs, and Genius Mutt is licking the last bits of crumbs off of the floor.
To be continued. . .
Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. It got a lot of attention in 2010 when a devastating earthquake hit the country. Since then, it has kind of fallen off of the map. In a way, that’s understandable–there is no shortage of need everywhere, we’ve had a crazy political environment, and the whims of news cycles are ephemeral.
Another pile o’ professional papers. Away they go. About half of these papers were about “exotics.” Technically, it means an animal that isn’t native to the area, but in small animal practice it means something that isn’t a dog or a cat.
There was a point in my career when I thought that I might see rodents, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and birds. I have treated them, but so sporadically as to not feel really comfortable doing so. If there’s a veterinarian on staff who isn’t in that day and the condition isn’t an emergency, I’ll have that vet see the animal. I’ll try to refer the animal to another clinic if where I’m working doesn’t have someone who sees these guys regularly.
Most veterinarians hate to do that. They are sending business elsewhere, and they are not sure if it will come back with the other animals, or when a doctor who likes to see exotics is on staff. I have been told by employers that I will see these animals, my level of comfort be damned. It can be a problem.
I don’t know if my children will ever know what it was like to have to keep one’s information in hard copy. There were all those articles that one xeroxed just to have them handy. The walls of offices were filled with years of periodicals and journals, all because we were afraid that we’d have to refer to them.
Of course, I barely got around to reading a tenth of the stuff I ever copied, and in the day of the internet, they are just not worth keeping around. The information in these old things is still probably good, for the most part, but it’s also been 15 years since I’ve treated a horse.
I liked keeping the Ippologia issue for sentimental reasons. I got it in Cremona, Italy (home of Stradivarius) when I was taking a course in veterinary acupuncture. I had a great time. The connections I made there lasted a while, but then they dissolved.
If I get influenza this winter,
I am fucked. Really fucked. Why? Because I have no friends here. None. If I missed work, someone would call and wonder where I am, but other than that, no one would check up on me. I would have to go to the store and spread my germs, because I wouldn’t have any other way to get food. In addition to the pain of illness would be the added pain of isolation and fear. My 11 year-old daughter would be worried and try to make sure I was OK, but she’s just an 11 year-old who would be in the custody of her mother , Fräulein Schadenfreude, who really hates me and might even take some cruel pleasure in the fact I was alone in my misery. Not that she’s bitter or anything.
I’ve had the flu before. It was debilitating. I was febrile and in pain for a full week. Yeah, sometimes it’s “just the flu”, but at other times it’s the disease that kills around 36,000 Americans per year ( a lot more Americans than Ebola, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis will). Fortunately it’s rare, but other times flut has been the epidemic that has knocked off 3-5% of the world’s population. It’s not the flu—it’s the ‘flu, dumbspeak for influenza.
All in all,I was well cared for. I was at my girlfriend’s mother’s house. We had driven down to Atlanta for Christmas(see what happens when you date a shiksa!) , and it was my first time meeting the family. I think I made a good first impression.
People with strong connections heal better and are in better general and mental health. Living in isolation is toxic—it can literally shorten your life. What is the worst punishment we can give (short of the death penalty)? Solitary confinement. Lock ‘em up, and let ‘em go nuts.
So winter’s coming up. Whaddaya gonna do?
First of all, don’t be a moron, and go get your flu shot.
Your immune system is not a muscle. Don’t think that by “stressing” it with exposure to a virus is going to make it stronger. The flu shot cannot give you the flu, nor will it cause autism, cause narcolepsy, or make you vote for Rick Perry. Unless you are allergic to eggs or religiously opposed( a weak reason, in my humble opinion), there is no reason not to get it. If you are under 50, get the intranasal—it shows better efficacy.
What population needs vaccination the most? School-age children. They run off to the viral exchange facility 5 days out of 7, and they are the super spreaders of the disease. If you want to protect infants and the elderly, it’s better to vaccinate school -age children than vaccinating those groups. I’m not going to argue science with whackos who think that vaccines are poison distributed widely. They can join my raw milk friends and throw a party. Go get your children vaccinated, or you are a parasite worse than Echinococcus multilocularis.
Secondly, don’t go to work sick.
I worked at a horrible corporate veterinary practice where the manager (where do they find these people? They went through 5 managers in a little over a year. The Company bought into the ridiculous Business School Conceit that if you know how to manage a convenience store you also know how to manage a machine shop or a veterinary practice—the falsity of this claim was demonstrated on a hourly basi, oh how we loved the days when she was off! ) Anyway, as I was saying the manager announced at an office meeting one day that “if anyone is sick and can’t come in to work, you still have to come in unless you find a replacement.” My response was, “As soon as I hear of anyone coming in with a fever, I’m leaving, and I will recommend that anyone else leave.” I don’t see why the employees should have to do the manager’s job of finding a replacement (other than the manager’s desire to shift the blame off of herself, in addition to cruelly burdening a sick person with a bad task). And it is sheer lunacy to have sick people come into work. Massachusetts is contemplating a paid sick leave law. Only slavemasters and fools (aka “job creators”) would oppose such a law.
Thirdly, make sure you’ve got some strong connections.
If you’re sick, you’re going to need friends. If you’re not, they are going to make your life better. Remember: it’s a long winter.