The first trip to a vet that I remember was after a car coming down Madison Street ran over my family’s Irish Setter. In the vet’s office, our dog was laid out on the exam table, his eyes closed, his breathing labored. After the examination, the vet looked at my dad and shook his head from side to side.
I didn’t return to a vet’s office for twenty years, until I was married and my wife’s cat needed vaccinations. It seemed a low-risk trip–how many animals have to be put down during vaccinations, but the cat didn’t share my calm; and throughout the entire trip into Columbus she emitted a mournful, plaintive moan that accompanied a loss of fir that I thought would denude the cat before we reached town.
The next trip to a vet was with my children’s cat and this time, far from plaintive moaning, Sox possessed a calm that would have been the envy of the masters in a Zen temple. Even when we reached the vet’s office and were surrounded by slobbering, teeth-baring dogs that must have been the result of cross-breeding between pit bulls and lions, sox looked around her as if observing a particularly colorful sunset.
When the vet had examined areas of Sox that I didn’t know needed to be examined, and had given her two shots, he paused in his routine, looked at Sox in a less clinical way, and said, “She takes life as it comes, doesn’t she?”
“She does,” I said.
On the way home there wasn’t a trace of the usual, “Whose idea was that?” look from a pet returning from the vet. Instead, sox looked out the window, her purring blending with the hum of the tires on the road.