I understand that emergency vet services are busy - and that’s just the sort of statement you’d expect from someone who goes on to demonstrate that he understands nothing of the kind.
I dropped off Birch at 7 PM. They said it would be two to three hours after the 30 - 45 minute intake period. Got that? Takes 45 minutes to do the paperwork.
Except I had done all that on the phone to speed things up, and they had his contact information in the system already, but never mind. I set my mental timer to eleven. The vet called at 11:11, and asked what we were in for today. Bite tongue: all the stuff the vet tech took down? But I get that they want to hear what you have to say. She said she would run the X-rays now, and it would take 20 minutes, after which they would go off to a radiologist. And that could take two hours.
You envision a canine GI specialist, overwhelmed by a constant stream of x-rays, one after the other, hour after hour.
I asked if they could tell from the X-ray if there was a severe blockage that required immediate attention. If there wasn’t, I could take Birch to our vet tomorrow, where you do not have to cash an industrial bond to pay the bill. She said yes, and would call in half an hour.
My instinct told me there was not a watermelon in his gut, so I made a decision. I would drive to the emergency vet in Eden Prairie, arriving half an hour after the half an hour. They would call, I’d be there, and heck we’d be home by one AM.
They did not call.
There were three other cars in the parking lot. Faces bent over, illuminated by phones. I got out and walked every 15 minutes to keep myself awake, walking the length of the strip mall. It’s nicely landscaped. It’s a prosperous area, with winding main thoroughfares. I’ve always liked this part of the suburbs; always liked the Eden Prairie Center. Seemed to be the end of the world, once. Daughter went to a summer program called “Power Kindergarten” here once, and I had a neat side-street route I learned by heart. Once we had Krispy Kreme, right down that road. I bought a mug. I still have it.
When someone came out to give someone a dog, I asked how my dog was doing. Didn’t want to call because they were busy, but how’s Birch doing? He’s the white lab, gut problems.
She said she would check. It was 1:45 AM. She came back and said they had the X-rays, and the radiologist would look at them now. I asked if he was the guy at the front desk I’d seen examining an X-ray. It showed dog innards with a huge black lump in the gut, and I’d thought oh no, that’s Birch, this is going to cost a fortune. The guy at the desk had picked up the phone; I took out mine, and expected it to ring. It did not. Whew.
She said no, the radiologist is in the back room, and she gestured behind her.
At 2 AM I made a command decision that made me feel practically collegiate: screw it, I’m staying up. Coffee. I need coffee. Googled the closest Holiday station, drove over, considered: small, not enough. Large, never sleep. Goldilock size. The store is clean and bright; the clerk is restocking. There are two cars filling up. Bought two small bags of spicy peanuts, because I was hungry as well. All the while I have my AirPods in, expecting the radiologist.
It is delicious coffee. I wish I had more.
The call comes at 3:30. The vet explains that the radiologist has not gotten back to them. The radiologist is not on premises, but is somewhere else, looks at the pictures remotely. Zoom world. This I understand, but the tech did say there was one in the back room. Vet is confused and said no, that’s not possible. I ask for the prognosis, based on her evaluation, which I’d been told I would get by midnight, and she says no troublesome signs, but some dark spots that could be a blockage, could be gas.
Which, you know, we could have decided three and a half hours ago?
It was four before I got out with Birch. He was okay. Not great, okay. When we got home he went straight to his water bowl, which was verboten. I took it away. He tried some toilet bowl water. Sorry. Rules: nothing for four hours.
I looked at the sheet they’d given me. DIAGNOSIS: VOMITING
Well, he would need rice tomorrow, and the coffee was still kicking, so I made a boil-in-the-bag portion of rice, had a shot of tequila, and went up the stairs to bed. The sky was light and the birds were out.
Slept five hours, woke to Wife saying it had been a bad morning. Birch had been shivering and stretching in obvious pain. Emergency vet had called back with the radiologist’s report; suspected blockage, or it could be gas, or food. Your call! Birch was on his bed, eyes closed, inert. Sigh.
Off to the U of M emergency vet. Leafy campus, with all the old 70s campus architectural regrets:
In this case I got updates every hour from every step of the process by keen, sympathetic young women. When they put him in the X-ray machine again and told me it might be two hours, I drove downtown, went to the office, finished the column and sent it in. Hope people like it; total blur.
Long story short, he’s working it through, just as last year when he ate the rabbit. He’s held down his food thus far. He took a walk and was all perky and bright and tried to chase squirrels. We’re not out of the woods but the trees are thinning. Overreaction? Eh. Dogs die from bowel obstructions.
It was a strange 36 hours, because A) I haven’t been awake at 4 AM in a long time, haven’t been outside of the normal diurnal life like that for eons. It felt like an audacious thing, at times. Slapped me back to old bar shifts, when normalcy is inverted. I enjoyed the different venues, because since COVID I have had the same venues, over and over. I revisited the interesting old industrial / commercial architecture of East Hennepin, that strange expanse between Minneapolis and St. Paul, the mysteries of Falcon Heights, the sense of ancient familiarity on the U of M Ag campus just because of the logos and the typefaces. Sleep deprivation gives everything a glaze of unreality that somehow reveals a greater reality shimmering at the border. See also, drugs.
I was chatting with Astrid in England about events, and noted I had to go write a column, and how Peg would have nodded: well yes, you have to produce, it’s on the schedule, it’s what you do, so do it. I wonder if we bonded so instinctively because we both had the same set of circumstances and attitude about it.
The look says “you’re pound foolish.”
Artist: Joesph Duplessis. Wikipedia: His portrait of Benjamin Franklin (circa 1785), more than any other, has fixed the image of Franklin for posterity since it is reproduced on the U.S. hundred dollar bill.
Self-portrait of the painter.
The life just leaps from the canvas.
The text for the Franklin image has another artist's name: Jean-Baptiste Greuze. Another Franklin portrait painter.
Ah, the high-minded world of the fine arts:
Greuze wished to be received as a historical painter, and produced a work which he intended to vindicate his right to despise his qualifications as a genre artist. This unfortunate canvas (Sévère et Caracalla) was exhibited in 1769 side by side with Greuze's portrait of Jeaurat and his admirable Petite Fille au chien noir.
The Academicians received their new member with all due honours, but at the close of the ceremonies the Director addressed Greuze in these words: "Sir, the Academy has accepted you, but only as a genre painter; the Academy has respect for your former productions, which are excellent, but she has shut her eyes to this one, which is unworthy, both of her and of you yourself."
Greuze, greatly incensed, quarrelled with his confreres, and ceased to exhibit until, in 1804, the Revolution had thrown open the doors of the Academy to all the world.
They were quite right about the rejected painting.