Saturday, February 26, 2011

We love Lucy

A girlfriend of mine recently complained about the high cost of taking her new puppy to the veterinarian.

"That's why we see a country doctor who charges us a flat rate for shots -- you know, ever since the Lucy incident," I said.

"The Lucy incident?" she asked.

Lucy was our beloved black Labrador Retriever. You see, at the time, we weren't as savvy as we are now. Today, we take advantage of the discounted rabies shots that are offered around the county. When we got a new lab for Christmas, we shopped around for an inexpensive vet, stopping short of buying the shots and administering them ourselves as a friend of mine said she did.

Does it mean our pooch is less pampered or we love him less? Not hardly. It just means that I will never again have to call my husband and whisper into the phone, "Honey, can you please bring me $350, so the vet will release Lucy?"

His reply? "Tell them to keep her!"

Taking Lucy to the vet was never something I relished. She had a way of wiggling her thick neck out of the tightest leash, and once she did, she bolted as if her life depended on it. No calling, begging, bribing or getting in the car and threatening to leave could coax her back. The kids used to think chasing her was the answer. Lucy enjoyed this game very much. She'd allow them to get almost within arm's reach, and then she'd run again.

The day of the incident, I decided to take her and our cat in one fell swoop, a feat hard enough by oneself, plain insane to try to do with three young children. By the time I unbuckled the kids' car seats, and took out the cat, who was hissing and rocking in her carrier, Lucy had slipped out of her collar and was on the run -- straight down the hill into the parking lot below toward some poor terrified man.

"Don't worry! She's sweet!" I screamed down to him.

Not taking my word for it, he decided to run. My kids gave chase, and I tossed the cat carrier aside to pursue them all.

Fortunately -- or unfortunately -- we caught her, put her leash on, dragged her up the hill and got her inside.

"What can we help you with today?" asked the veterinarian.

"Oh, we are just here to get the animals' rabies shots," I said.

"What about a check-up? It's very important that they have their regular check-up. You want to be able to detect any signs of illness early," she said.

"Illness? Lucy's sick?" all three children cried in unison.

"No, she's fine. It's just a check-up!" I said to the kids, beginning to feel a little concerned.

"Hmmm ..." said the vet as she examined our dog. "Have you had her thyroid checked?"

"Um, her thyroid?"

"Yes, it's very common for labs to have problems with their thyroid, especially labs who are overweight like Lucy."

"Oh, I'm sure it's fine."

"I need to tell you that it's a very serious problem, and, if it goes untreated, it could shorten her life span considerably," said the vet.

"Shorten her life span? You mean die? We don't want Lucy to die, Mom! Do the thyroid test, please!" the kids implored, looking at me with big, scared eyes.

"OK, do the test," I said.

"And, I think we need to get her on some diet dog food, too," the vet said. "That is, if you want to keep her around a little longer."

What could I say?

"Sure, we'll take the diet dog food."

The vet continued to make suggestions and the next thing I know I'm calling my husband asking him to take out a loan.

"Diet dog food? Why not just feed her less?" he said.

He had a point.

"You need to get an itemized bill," he said.

I requested one, and as I looked over it, I saw something that I couldn't help but laugh about. At the end of the long list of charges were the words:

Anal glands expressed --complimentary.

That pretty much summed up how I felt.

To add insult to injury, a few weeks later, when I returned home from work one day, my husband said, with more than a hint of sarcasm, "Well, you'll be happy to know that the vet called, and Lucy's thyroid is just fine."

The good news is Lucy lived a nice long life, reaching the age of 13. We fed her table scraps and found her pleasingly plump size made her much easier to catch when she playfully ran away. And she never had to return to the vet again.

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