Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Dog Day Morning

Early this morning I went to drop the puppy off at the vet. He’s six months old and is officially ready to be neutered. There was a woman behind me with a French bull dog, her eyes squinty and red. She smiled meekly and said,

“I’ve been crying all morning about bringing Midge in here for his neutering. I was supposed to do it 3 months ago but chickened out. I feel just terrible.”

I smiled weakly and tried to sympathize with her and her dog Midge, who clearly had no idea what was in store for him, his tongue sticking out and his tail wagging. “It will be fine.”

I was glad she wasn’t there earlier when I was questioning the billing.

“What’s this extra amount for right here, this $140?”

“Well we can’t seem to locate his second testicle. It hasn't descended. It may be in his abdomen.”

“And that’s going to cost an extra $140. Do I have any other options? Does the testicle need to come out if it’s lodged in his abdomen? If it’s in his abdomen can he still be a dad?”

“He can still get a female dog pregnant.”

“Really? It’s just, it’s a lot of money and I have a lot of expenses. I have kids and all. Can I get a second opinion?”

“Well, you are on a wellness plan and you’ve already made payments toward the neutering. Another vet will tell you the same thing and it will cost pretty much the same. We can’t move forward unless you consent and it’s in your dog’s best interest.”

As I talked I noticed the dog nurse getting more irritated by me and my questions. Don’t get me wrong. I like the puppy. He’s oodles of fun and companionship. And I’m all for the neutering – it’s the responsible thing to do and if it means less humping and marking his spot I’m totally game. But learning that he has a unique situation that may require more invasive surgery? The odds once again not in my favor? The puppy’s situation not typical? Seriously?

As my girlfriend, who has two disabled children said,

“When they start with, ‘the chances are minuscule,’ I always have my guard up.“

We are moms who have the one child in one hundred and ten that has autism. We have the one boy in seventy that has been diagnosed with autism. We are part of the statistic. We are not the lucky ones nor are our boys who have to fight everyday to try to feel part of this world.

I sign the papers of consent and hand them to the dog nurse and give him the leash.

“Do you need anything else from me? I need to split and get my kids off to school.”

His arms folded in front of him, he takes the leash, his face still in a frown, “Would you like to say good-bye and good luck to Duncan?”

I must look flustered, my reading glasses perched in my messy hair, sleep still in my eyes. Its 7 a.m. and still dark outside. I wave at my puppy who is more interested in the dog nurse’s shoes and pant cuffs and bend down to scratch his floppy ears.

“Be good, Duncan.” I say, confirming the dog nurse’s suspicion that I’m a crappy pet owner.

“When can I pick him up?” I ask, getting ready to leave.

“We’ll call you when he‘s ready.” He says curtly.

“Yeah, but I have a class tonight and so could I get him by 4 p.m.?

The dog nurse has picked up Duncan, cuddling him and letting him lick his arms and face. I want to tell him that Duncan eats dirt with that tongue and licks sidewalks, garbage cans and curbs but I stop myself.

“I couldn’t possibly tell you right now,” he says exasperated with my line of questioning. “We can call you when he is in recovery. “

“Okay, well my class gets out at seven and I have to pick my son up from hockey so if 4 p.m. doesn’t work I can come by around 7:30 p.m.?”

“We close at 7. We'll do our best to get him ready before 4 p.m. But if it’s later than 4 p.m. you’ll have to make other arrangements.” He says leaving me with the tear stained lady and Midge.

I have somehow offended his sensibilities. What I want to say is,

“I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Yes, my dog is great. The kids seem to like him and aside from his marking the bathmat and Sean’s stuffed animals with his stinky pee, he’s a good dog. But he’s a dog, a family pet. He is healthy except for the hidden nut. And I have a child who has limited options. If I’m going to spend money it will be with my child’s best interest first. It’s the least I owe him. So be patient at my mulling it all over, please.”

I want to tell him that just yesterday at an appointment for my migraines; I told my doctor that I couldn’t do a colonoscopy. He told me I am at a higher risk and that I need to get screened at age forty. I told him if I have an extra four grand to spend it will be on my son. I feel fine and I don’t have time or money to worry about cancer. He told me my insurance would cover it. I said,

“Yes, maybe, once I meet the ten grand deductible which after today I’m looking at only $9800 left.”

He told me to save up for the procedure. I smiled and said,

“Treat myself to a colonoscopy. Sounds like Christmas morning.”

He laughed and said, “I’m serious. Get one in the next year.”

So, dog nurse, forgive me if I seem a little high strung over the billing. Life is about priorities and sometimes we have to say unpopular things that may not go over well with others. We are just trying to do the best we can with our resources and our situations. Yes, I’ll pay the extra money, of course I will. But just because I’m not torn up like Midge’s owner and I balked over the extra $140 doesn’t mean I am a bad pet owner. Just because I didn’t drop to my knees and take my little puppy into a kissy embrace and whisper with tears in my throat, ‘be brave, little one. Mommy loves you,’ doesn’t mean I lack affection. I happen to be a pretty good pet owner and that says a lot considering the pets we owned when I was a kid roamed the neighborhoods and slept in the garage and ate scraps from the table and drank out of the creek.

I just have a different perspective. That’s all. My dog has a charmed life. He eats yummy puppy food, sleeps on a pillow, runs and is joyful. My son, on the other hand, struggles everyday to fit in and to be happy. I can’t muster up the tears for my lucky dog who is getting a fairly normal procedure done. It’s my boy who I cry for when I see how much of life he misses out on because of autism. To me, that’s my worry, that’s my true sadness.


suelmayer said...

I can relate to your post Katie. My experience was a new neighbor brought over her son for Trick or Treat. I know I should have taken time to stop and talk, comment on how Danielle loves to babysit for him and ask more about his cool costume, but I have so much going on with Sam's hip surgery coming up. I'm trying to move my life up by two months and I'm worried how Sam will get through all this. I just dropped a few pieces of candy in his pumpkin, said "Cute costume" and hurried back to Sam. It doesn't mean I'm not a good neighbor or I don't just means my life life.

Katie Donohue Bevins said...

Absolutely. I am sending good thoughts and prayers yours and Sam's way -- hoping it will all go very smoothly. xoKatie

Anonymous said...

I agree COMPLETELY with your reaction to the dog nurse's disapproval. I myself own and love two dogs, but that's what they are, dogs. They are not my children, they are my pets. This doesn't mean I don't love them, pet them, walk them, enjoy their antics. But they are dogs. I don't expect to spend $4000 on cancer surgery for them. My husband and daughter's serious needs and wants will always come first. Well ranted Katie!
BTW, I got your blog from Bev Hayes, and am please to say that I agree totally with her assessment, which is it that it is great. I am going to pass on the link to my friend whose daughter has autism.

Jessica Jolly (from HCI days)

Beren deMotier said...

Totally there Katie. I put off spaying our puppy for two heats because I wanted to make sure we could survive the stress she put on G before investing the money in her. I went to the vet with our old dog yesterday and the vet is all about the glucosamine and mapping his lumps, and I'm thinking, why? He's eleven. he's in good shape for eleven. If he gets cancer, we're not going for expensive interventions. We need it for all the experts, medications and accommodations it takes to keep our kid with autism in school, instead of being kicked out for his aggression. Our dogs are lucky. Our kids need the attention.