I called Vermont’s only emergency veterinary clinic in Burlington, an hour’s drive away. The technician told me there was at least a five hour wait to be seen because other animals in the queue were worse off than Reggie. “Bring him in if he further degrades,” she said after I described his symptoms. “We see animals on a triage basis.” I thought of the old TV series “ER” and conjured up a vision of dogs arriving at the animal hospital with gunshot wounds, dangling limbs from auto accidents, heart attacks, breaths away from expiring. Maybe Reggie wasn’t in such bad shape after all.
Monitoring him throughout the night was easy because he nudged my hand and barked every fifteen minutes to go outside to pee. Too tired to read, not interested in any sort of screentime diversion, I had time to ponder in those interim moments what life would be without Reggie.
I made a mental list—in no particular order.
- I would have a lot more discretionary income. Dogs are expensive, especially when things go wrong. In addition to the cost of maintenance, I would save money on upland bird hunting trips. On the other hand, no more fall jaunts to the Northeast Kingdom, Michigan’s upper peninsula, Minnesota, or Montana spending entire weeks hunting hardwood forests, fields, and the endless Big Sky plateaus and draws for Hungarian partridge, pheasants, and grouse. I could also sell my favorite piece of sporting goods—my 1950s Belgian Browning shotgun with a Turkish walnut stock, beautiful hand-engraved receiver, and perfect fit and finish. No reason for a hunting gun without a dog.
- I would have more time on my hands. Every single day, Reggie demands a long walk of an hour or more in the woods where he can run to his heart’s content. He doesn’t care about the weather. So, I wouldn’t have replace every year the sneakers and boots I wear out slogging through deep snow, muddy trails, deep puddles and rocky hills. Sometimes, we go to unexplored places in the national forest and I just follow wherever his nose and curiosity takes him. Together we’ve flushed grouse and turkeys, seen moose and bears, lost our bearings in swamps, drawn in the pungent smell of decaying leaves and skunk. With this extra time I could clean out the fridge full of science experiments, dust the book shelves, and pull more weeds. Maybe get a real job again.
- I could help Mike take the garbage and recyclables to the dump on Saturday mornings instead of chatting idly with the six or so owners of Reggie’s dog friends in the library parking lot and field. Dog “play dates” with no dog seems a bit senseless.
- I could stop writing blog articles on my bestdogintheuniverse.com website. In fact, I could decommission the site and spend time figuring out the allure of social media.
- Travel would be far less complex and easier without Reggie. We could stay in accommodations other than Motel 6 where dogs stay for free. We could go to any beach, not just ones that allow dogs to run wild in the pounding surf, swim out to sea chasing seals, and spin in circles crazed by taunting seagulls. Cross-country trips could be made in an airplane, rather than a car. Last year, Reggie, Mike and I camped on remote BLM lands in the high mountains of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona where we encountered no one. Without Reggie, we might have pitched our tent in the overcrowded campgrounds of national parks. We could actually walk a straight line in the Santa Fe central plaza without being stopped by dozens of people smitten by Reggie’s charms. Without a dog, we could eat inside restaurants. On the other hand, on a recent trip to Ashville, NC, restaurants went out of their way to be dog friendly and the best seating was outside. Folks clamored between drinks and dinner to stop by our table and chat us up while fawning over Reggie.
- The house would be quiet with just the two of us. There would be no dog grabbing stinky socks that hadn’t made it inside the hamper and running circles around the house with them. No shredding brown paper bags into pulpy bits. No scavenger hunting for missing shoes every morning. No bolting out the front door to bark at whatnot. No more dog hair on the couch or Reggie insisting on sitting on our laps during the PBS News Hour. Would Judy Woodward notice her missing canine viewer?
- This list is getting long so I’ll end with the existential crisis the UPS, FedEx, and USPS delivery folks might face if Reggie wasn’t around to greet them. What would they do with their bribe treats? And their pants would no longer smell like Reggie slobber so what would the next dog on their route smell? This is an awful thought.
I was sure what ailed him could be fixed. After all, the previous day he had been to the vet for his well-dog annual check where he aced, if not appreciated, his blood work, poop and urine samples, prostate check, and other poking and prodding, as well as a plethora of vaccinations. How could he go so far south in a day?
It was 7:59 a.m. when I called my regular vet’s office and explained what was going on. I sensed urgency when the receptionist said, “We have an appointment slot open in a half hour. Can you get here by then?”
I made sure the huge limit credit card I only use in emergencies was in my wallet, threw on my sweat pants and coaxed Reggie into the car. He didn’t hang his head out the window, look for passing dogs, or try to occupy the front seat on the trip. When we got to the vet, there was no attempted escape or peeing on every shrub, flower, and post near the entrance. He hung his head and calmly walked in the reception area like some sort of well-behaved, elderly collie. My heart sank.
Next blog post: “Journey to the Mysterious World of Intensive Vet Care.”