Friday, May 26, 2006

Making a life in the shade of the wreck that is now America

I'd love to take credit for the today's blog title but it's a paraphrase of Arundhati Roy's, "they fashion a childhood for themselves in the shade of the wreck that is their family." It's from her novel, "The God of Small Things."

But I couldn't help feel we're doing our best, all of us, making lives in the shade of this wreck as I glance around the veterinary clinic's waiting room. My wife remarks softly how there's nothing sadder than the sound of a sick cat. I nod. She says it so its owner can't hear her over kitty's mornful, human-like cries coming from inside a carrying cage.

Our greyhound Pony, depressingly ill for days at home, now stands as erect, alert and as far from us as the taut leash we've given her will allow. She's cured! Or so she would have us believe.

Of the four dogs we've had, Pony's the only one who loves coming to vet's. Despite knowing the pain and discomforts the vet is capable of dispensing.

It's moments like these that remind us why we picked ol Po' out of the herd the first time we saw her. Extremely amiable, aloof, quirky and very 'kick ass'. These were characteristics we detected she possessed--if she felt like it. And then there was the mysterious piece of missing ear she'd left somewhere in Arizona.

A small dog appears at the check-in counter and suddenly Pony is now a doberman. She's barking with ferocity. Back at the house, as a greyhound, Pony's a mute. She doesn't know how to bark. But here with a dog one one fifth her size, Pony becomes 'kick-ass'. Moments later a tech appears and takes Po' back for X-rays.

As we wait, a young woman comes in and sits across from us. Her pup, an eager learner, already hates this place. He sits at her feet. I watch as he gets up, moves closer, and resits. He's leaning against her now. We remark something of his cuteness. She responds disinterested.

Not taking her hint, we ask what kind of dog he is. She says with less indifference he's an old English bulldog. We hate bulldogs, but without the horrific bulldog underbite, he's able to close his mouth without teeth showing. He even breathes without sounding like a dying asthmatic. His expressions are almost human. We like this little guy.

We learn he belongs to this woman's 11 year old daughter. She explains he's extra edgy, having missed his breakfast. Knowing that fasting is often a prelude to some kind of invasive procedure, we ask, and learn today he's getting fixed. I say something like, "When he awakens, he'll be missing more than his breakfast."

By now the woman has become quite affable. It seems like we've known her more than five minutes. Maybe more like ten or fifteen, when suddenly she sobers the three of us up with the news that later this summer her husband's going to Iraq. It'll be his second tour.

My wife says she is so sorry. The pretty young woman says she is too. And then she and her dog are gone, the dog to lose his testicles, the young woman to lose her husband. We hope the the latter returns.

Just another day in the shade of the wreck.


Anonymous said...

Sounds promising! Loved your description of "kick ass" Pony, even if only an attitude adopted at the vet. I think it's a natural animal thing to not want to show weakness. Our dogs turn into pit bulls there, straining at the leash, barring teeth, fur up along their backs. No one would guess these are the same dogs that live to sleep on the bed, afraid of a little rain or thunder. And ... you met Winston Churchill in the waiting room who was awaiting the quick snip! Not to mention his "daddy" who will soon be bravely defending the wreckage of iraq at the behest of men who've never known a moment of real discomfort (sigh). D.K.

Anonymous said...

My dear, sweet little mutt (now dead some 20 years) knew the minute our car turned into the plaza where the vet's office was. I don't know how she knew, but she did -- and she'd start yelping right away...

So glad your pooch feels better... Very, very sad (and so utterly unnecessary) that the lady's husband has to go to Iraq. What an unholy and mindbogglingly evil idea that was for all concerned (Iraq, the U.S., indeed the whole world).