Friday, February 15, 2008
It's All Good...
Today I’d like to write about grief and love, mourning and compassion. For those of you who don’t know me - I am an emergency veterinarian. I work all the odd hours (nights, weekends and holidays) and I see the bad stuff. Most of my patients are very sick or severely injured. People are not happy to see us. Crying is a common occurrence; among both the clients and the staff.
Last night we got a call- a pitbull, an intact male hit-by-car. They were coming in - ten minutes out. We set up; clippers and scrub, IV catheters, fluids and oxygen. Ten minutes later we got another call - the dog was too big, they couldn’t lift him. Police dispatch went to assist with transport (kudos to the police in my area - they are awesome when it comes to animal welfare). The dog arrived shortly thereafter, muzzled and in a large kennel. He was dead on arrival. The officer thought he was likely dead on the scene but wanted confirmation. The dog had no form of identification, no collar, no microchip. Fortunately, his owners had been the ones who called and they followed the police to our clinic.
The owner’s were prototypical pitty people (at least those portrayed by the media) - a young couple, broke, pierced and tattooed. They walked with a shrug in their shoulders. Their slouchy gait, I suspect, was a general commentary on life. My receptionist put them in an exam room and I told them their dog had passed - his injuries were just too severe, it was likely quick, and I doubt he suffered much if at all . They were quiet and polite - kids really, probably not much older than 20. I was relieved. I expected more drama. The boy asked to see the dog. We brought the dog into the room. By this time a third person, a girl, also in her early twenties, arrived. She was bawling and couldn’t catch her breath. For a moment I thought she might faint. Then she started screaming, “WE HAVE TO TELL HIM. WE HAVE TO!” Uh oh - here comes the drama. It turns out the real owner of the dog was at work. The people in front of me were his brother, his brother’s girlfriend and his girlfriend. At that moment the real owner called via cell phone. The three in the room tossed the offending phone around like a hot potato. Finally the distraught girlfriend took the call and through horrible gut wrenching sobs told him his dog had passed. The brother and brother's girlfriend slipped quietly out.
The dog’s owner left work. He came to the clinic. He was distraught, maniacal. He did not want to see the dog. He wanted his collar, a leather Harley-Davidson collar. We explained that the dog did not have a collar on when he arrived at the clinic. We suggested that, perhaps, his brother had it. We arranged for transport to the humane society for cremation of the dog’s remains. The owner went outside to call his brother. I went into my office to type records.
Suddenly the man burst into the lobby screaming and pointing fingers at my receptionist. “MY FUCKING BROTHER DOESN’T HAVE THE FUCKING COLLAR. YOU GET THE FUCKING POLICE ON THE FUCKING PHONE RIGHT FUCKING NOW AND TELL THEM I WANT MY DOG’S FUCKING COLLAR!”
My heart leapt into my throat. All I could think is this is not good for my health. I picked up the phone to call the police - and not about the collar. The girlfriend dragged him out of the lobby.
The same officer was back on shift this morning. He did not have the dog collar. He went to the scene to look for it. It was not there. He transported the body for us. He could not convince the dog’s owner that neither we nor he wanted the collar. Honestly, we don’t have a black market e-bay account where we sell collars - really! The police have dealt with this man before.
For all the effort from the police and my staff - there were no charges accrued. Every thing we did was out of compassion and a sense of duty. And this man’s behavior irks me. We were there to help. But, I know he’s grieving. I know he is sad and lost. I know his life’s circumstances are such that he has a multitude of problems. And now I’m at home, snuggling with one of the most precious people on the planet. As my neighbor would say, “It’s all good.”
So I’m giving this owner a reprieve. He is understood and he is forgiven. And, in his honor, I’ll go out of my way to do something nice for someone today. I want to make a deposit in the universal bank of happiness to counteract last night's negativity.
Happy Friday to all! I wish you a joyful and productive day!