We took Ellie for her first vet visit last week, or her first one as an official member of the family, but for some reason she didn’t see it as the beautiful rite of passage I’d imagined. She sat on my lap in the waiting room, ignoring Boopy, the African Grey parrot (even though he was whistling and banging on his noisemakers to get her attention). She also ignored the enormous German Shephard puppy on the floor, and the little apricot poodle on the bench across from us, and just sat there and shook.
She didn’t need the kind of restraints Cricket generally needs during her exam, though she was clearly tempted to pee on the table. The vet took blood and gave shots and added another tag to her collar (we’d gotten her a blingy grey collar, and red flower name tag by then). Then the vet answered my questions: about a grain-free diet (because we’d been told that Havanese dogs need a grain-free diet, but the vet said no way, research has shown heart trouble resulting from unnecessarily grain-free diets); and about wet versus dry food (both fine, to Ellie’s great disappointment, since she was hoping for a prescription for whole roasted chickens). And then he said that Ellie would need a dental cleaning, as soon as possible. Eek! He showed me the plaque at her gum line, just to make sure I got the message, that only bad dog mommies would leave those teeth uncleaned. We paid for the visit but I didn’t schedule the dental procedure right away, because, one, anesthesia scares the crap out of me, especially for someone as small as Ellie, and two, the cost of the cleaning would start at $400 and go up from there depending on the seriousness of her dental situation.
My last experience with anesthesia was with Butterfly’s emergency hernia surgery, a few months before she died, when, with her heart disease, she had less than a fifty percent chance of survival. I tried to talk myself through the differences between the two situations, but flashbacks were inevitable. Of course, I decided to go through with it anyway. I trust Cricket and Ellie’s vet, both on what he thinks my girls need for their health, and on what is safe or unsafe for them. And I want Ellie to have her teeth for as long as possible. Miss Butterfly made do with the teeth she had, but I know she would have enjoyed having more teeth to chew her food with.
So, a week later, we took the food and water bowls off the floor at nine PM, because Ellie had to be empty for anesthesia. And no one got treats after the first walk of the day the next morning, because I was afraid that if I gave one to Cricket, Ellie would wrestle her to the ground and grab it out of her mouth. She likes food, a lot. Cricket stared at the treat shelf for an extra ten seconds, to let me know that I was making a horrible mistake, but she actually gave up pretty quickly and both girls went back to sleep.
The real problem came when I went to put Ellie’s leash on, and Cricket pushed in front of her and started jumping at me, looking for her own leash. Usually Cricket gets her leash on first, so clearly something was wrong. I told Cricket that she didn’t want to go to the place where Ellie was going, and that as soon as we left she’d get to eat her breakfast, but she didn’t believe me. I had to pick her up and hand her off to Grandma, so that I could get Ellie out the door.
Ellie sat calmly in the backseat of the car, and then sat by my feet in the waiting room until the vet tech arrived to take her to the back. She even made sure to give me nose kisses before she was taken away, and that helped a little bit. Well, it helped me.
We got the call about an hour later that she was already out of the anesthesia and awake and no teeth had to be extracted. I’d been ready for a day of worrying, that I’d never see her again, or that the procedure would get complicated and she’d lose ten teeth and maybe a limb, but here they were calling and saying, nope, all good. We weren’t allowed to pick her up until three o’clock in the afternoon though, and, since I couldn’t think straight, I ended up doing a jigsaw puzzle for the next few hours, until we were finally allowed to go get her.
Cricket refused to be left at home for the pickup, even though I made sure to remind her that we’d be going to the vet. She sat on my lap in the passenger seat of the car while Mom drove, and then she huddled behind my neck as we got closer to the vet’s office, and then she jumped out of the car as soon as the door was open half an inch. When we went to the front desk to tell the receptionist we were there to pick up Ellie, Cricket spoke up too, and then we heard Ellie’s little whisper bark from the back room. She’d heard our voices! She knew us! Either that or she’d been barking at every noise for the past four or five hours, but I prefer my version.
They had to do a few more things in the back room, though, and Cricket was impatient to see her sister, so she waited at the door, ignoring Boopy’s whistles and greetings. When Ellie came marching out she was perky and totally fine, and I was shocked. Even after just getting x-rays Miss Cricket always looked like she’d been hit by a truck, but here was Ellie, after anesthesia and dental scraping, looking like she was ready to party. And she knew exactly who I was, and that I was her home. How had she learned that so fast? I was sure she’d be angry at me, or think I was a stranger coming to pick her up, but no, she was blasé about the whole thing. Like, Hey Mom, are you ready to go? Anything good for lunch?
We loaded back into the car and Cricket immediately took up her spot behind my neck, letting me know that her ordeal had been much more traumatizing than anything Ellie had gone through. And Ellie was cool with it, leaning forward to see what was going on, sniffing Cricket’s nose, and licking my arm.
The fact is, even in the short month they’ve been together, Cricket and Ellie have learned how to work as a team. They wake me up early to go out for their first morning walk (and then their morning treat, and breakfast, and their second morning walk). Ellie waits for Cricket to finish as much as she’s hungry for, before she gobbles up the rest of the food in Cricket’s bowl. Sometimes they elbow each other out of the way when scratchies are on offer, but they’ll accept tandem scratching. They even nap together, or at least they nap in the same place and at the same time.
When we got home, Ellie was only allowed to have a few ice cubes and still no food, but she was still fine with everything. I was wiped out and in need of a three hour nap, but she looked like she could have taken another five walks. I don’t know where her resilience comes from, or how she’s managed to adapt to life with us so quickly. She trusts me. She snuggles next to me. And she smiles. She asked to come up on the bed, and she let me look at her newly shiny teeth, and then she stretched out for a nap, a few inches away from me on one side, and a few inches away from Cricket on the other side and she fell asleep. I’m pretty sure she was dreaming about eating roasted chicken, but maybe she was just sending herself to sleep with the knowledge that she was finally home, where she belongs.