Slowly but surely, the three of us approached the CSU veterinary school in the world’s most erratic chorus line.
At my right hand – literally – was our disabled ward Missy, angling her course periodically to point out the other dogs nearby, or to stop at the check-in desk to chat, or to steer a wandering route to the nearest restroom.
At my left hand – and my left wrist may someday forgive me – was the mound of canine muscle known as Big Blake. Amiable. Confused. And testing the strength of his leash, and of Newton’s Third Law, as every step drew us nearer to the home of “doggie doctors.”
Finally, in the exam room, Big Blake had enough.
“Why don’t we just take you right back for some tests?” the friendly and winning vet tech said – just before Blake leaned against me and dug his claws into the hardened floor, to Missy’s amusement and my knowing smile.
“OK … why doesn’t Daddy take you right back ….”
It’s hard to blame Blake. It had been a tough week for an easygoing English Lab. The immediate center of his universe – my wife Heather – had been gone for two days to help her sister through a difficult back surgery. Necessary. But uncomfortable.
So while Heather was being a source of comfort and transforming into the Amazing “Aunt Hufu” for our nieces, Blake was dealing with all sorts of schedules that were subtly off, from food to naps to food to family chores to food to errands to food. (When you’re an English Lab with a one-track mind and an iron stomach, there are certain priorities to consider.)
Mind you, it wasn’t the first time Heather had been absent for more than a few hours. It wasn’t even the longest. But it was the longest in recent canine memory, which for Blake stretches to about the previous Tuesday. Maybe.
Add in a vet visit after a long drive to Fort Collins and … well, you can understand Blake being just a little clingy. OK, a lot clingy. Like Saran Wrap made from duct tape.
Again, necessary. But uncomfortable.
To be fair, I don’t think most of us do a lot better.
Oh, we rarely get to fight back on a leash in the presence of a smiling veterinarian. But we’re all called on more than once to do the uncomfortable thing, to break the routine, to get something done that needs doing now.
And, many times, we resist.
It might be Jonah saying “Nah, you don’t need me to carry that message- hey, where’d that big fish come from?” Or Thomas Jefferson saying “Hey, Mr. Adams would be a much better writer for this Declaration thing.” Or something simpler in our own prosaic lives, whether it’s taking on a difficult task, reaching out a needed hand, or just getting that mole checked out that’s probably nothing, right?
We set up expectations for ourselves and for our lives. But life isn’t good at sticking to expectations. And rather than follow the new route, we often try to fight for the wheel like the protagonist in an action movie.
Sure, sometimes you need to stay the course as best you can. But a lot of times – whether it’s as personal as enduring back surgery or as large-scale fighting a policy that affects you and your family – you’ve got to hold on and make it through if you’re going to straighten things out. Maybe with the choice of an instant. Maybe with an effort of months.
We don’t get to choose everything that happens. Just how we deal with it. And how we help others do the same.
Blake’s home now. Heather, too. Both are happy and resting. And maybe, just maybe, our furry friend is a little readier to deal with the next time.
I hope so, anyway. My left wrist can only take so much.