I should have been an actress, I could cry at any given moment: just give me a moment . . . let's see. ah yes, that picture of an abandoned greyhound . . . wwaaahhhh. I was at the vet's yesterday with the old dog (nineteen now) she had recently become very doddery, sometimes collapsing, back legs non-functioning and when she didn't want to walk further than the big almond tree down the road and was panting like a traction engine I thought perhaps it was . . . time.
Mark and Ezra had said their provisional goodbyes and I felt in control as I drove down to town: this would be easy, she has had a great life, well we don't know about the first ten years as she was a rescue dog, but the last nine, pretty idilic as far as we can know as humans.
She was reluctant to step over the threshold at the vets: did her wavering dog sixth sense suspect something? or was it the smell of previous trips she could remember? We sat and quaked while I pushed the tears far into me with thoughts of book editing and jobs I hadn't done.
There are two vets in this practice, husband and wife: she is so kind that I can feel the tears pricking my eyes at the thought of what she might say, in fact it's the husband we see. He is more of a Bruce Willis sort of a vet: Madame, ave no fear, we can conquer any maladie . . . quie c'est vrai que elle est pas dans un bon etat, MAIS . . . we look at the old trembling dog and agree that she is far from dog show status, but he is going to do tests! He inserts a needle and covers himself amply with aging dog corpuscles, merde . . .voila ma petite tou tou. Madame if you would care to wait in the salle d'attante, cinq minutes. Five minutes: it's a beautiful day, should I have left the dog to lie in the sun for half an hour first? given her some fresh meat, a last supper?
The other door opens and the wife vet calls me in, all big concerned eyes and soft words: shit here I go, the tears are coming, that awful feeling when you are sitting with a group of people watching that part in a film: stare at something else, oo, that plant needs watering, maybe we should repaint the kitchen, sniff.
She lifts the dog so carefully and feels her legs, chest, back: o la la, she has pain, ma pauvre. I know what she is going to ask me, but I can't get the words out as I am crying instead. She has no doubt seen it all before, a thousand times; she runs through the two options, I must choose — life or death. She is obviously of the opinion that now might be a good time: perhaps we could gain another two, three months, but with the heat of the summer . . . ? I'm ready to agree, I've done all the thinking beforehand, I'm about to nod when Bruce Willis rushes back in waving a bit of paper: Mais NON! she is not at the end of the roll yet (I love this French expression) I am certainly at the end of my roll now, emotions truly ****** up; he picks the dog up and takes her into his room and explains in rapid French all about her blood sugar, kidneys, heart etc: all will be OK, just a small bag of drugs: two of these tomorrow, a squirt of this, one of those for ten days: Voila madame, ring me next week.
The reception relieve me of a frightening amount of money and I step back into the bright sunshine, sniveling with a red face and a pounding headache. I place the dog carefully in the car and drive back home feeling pummeled. I wonder how the vet team can be so opposing in their view on life and death, but as I watch the old dog sniffing around the kitchen on her endless search for any crumb and occasionally looking at me with her green glowly eyes, I feel re-connected with an old friend and that's a good thing.