Norman Rockwell and me

Norman Rockwell painting boy at veterinarian sitting alone
Ever feel like this? I think we all do, when we bring our animals to the vet. No matter the reason, it’s daunting to be there; the animal in your arms is usually very apprehensive, the other animals around you are either yapping or barking or shaking in tandem with yours. Sometimes, the vet is a place for news we are afraid to hear, sometimes it’s just a routine checkup but with the deep emotions we feel for our pets, it’s hard to separate even routine from anticipatory worry.

It’s harder to be there, knowing there’s a problem, and all alone to boot. That’s where I found myself this afternoon. Theo hadn’t been himself for the last 3 days, and I finally made an appointment for him to see the vet today. Being a mid-afternoon appointment, I had no kids with me to help pass the time, or dismiss the growing worry, and I remembered this Norman Rockwell painting all too well. It was even more apropos when I had seen the vet and returned to the waiting room with my dog, to await the Xray machine’s availability. Sitting there, I had to absorb the news that Theo may have a discal hernia (as well as all the things that can happen because of it, and the possible surgery he might face at some point in his life). Being the emotional soul that I am, having already shed tears in the examining room, I breathed to calm myself for my dog’s sake (as well as, perhaps, my public face). And I felt, more than ever, like the child in this painting. All around me were other patients with their owners, happy and healthy, and my puppy was lying, still and quiet, in my arms while I quelled emotions for his peace of mind.

The technician came out to take Theo to the X-ray, and I sat alone, feeling more isolated than even this child depicts. It lasted about 40 minutes while Theo got the X-rays, at which point I was then shown to another examining room and asked to await the doctor. That was worse. Not knowing what she’d tell me, not even having my puppy with me to soothe, I had to press my fingernails into my palm to detract from tears. And all I could do was say a prayer to whatever Entity would listen. One doesn’t hear the words “possible paralysis” without her mind reeling toward that vision at 100 miles an hour.

The doctor came in and powered up the computer screen on the wall; forgetting my worry, I focused on the cool digital x-rays I was shown. I listened so that I could remember her every word to tell both kids, and the news was encouraging. No fracture or infection she could see, and if it is a discal hernia, it is minor. She would send me home with anti-inflammatory meds for him, and by 24 hours from then, I should see an improvement. Still, without totally babying him (fat chance), I was told he should not do any jumping for another 10 days.

The problem could recur – or not. It could need surgery – or not. But whatever happens, I am in good hands with the vet; that, above all, is worth the price paid for the visit.

Theo was brought out to me, happy to see me, but subdued. He sat on the counter between me and the receptionist while I paid for the visit, the x-rays, the meds, and the stuffed animal and cookies I’d bought him (guilt goes shopping). Then I brought him home to await his boys’ return from school so I could explain to their very-worried faces what I had learned.

I have given Theo his first dose of meds, and lo and behold! He ate the cookie WITH the pills without even spitting out the meds! Thank goodness, because the last thing I wanted was to force-feed my already-stressed puppy his meds!

I’ve always loved Norman Rockwell. And the above painting was always a favorite of mine. But today, it came back to me in feelings, not just vision, and my admiration for the man’s ability to depict emotions without words just grew exponentially.

I’ll update Theo’s condition as I go…think good thoughts.

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