Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Visiting the Vet

If you don’t like dogs, go read something else. I’m breaking the rules here.
You’re not supposed to write about your dog. It’s amateurish. Yup.
But I’m not writing about how darling she is, or how adorable her predecessors undoubtedly were. Only Marley gets to be a bad dog in retrospect, and we all loved him, right?
I’m writing about her vet. Their vets.
We’ve had four Labrador retrievers over the years and one Labration. All have enjoyed intimate associations with veterinary medicine.
We are responsible pet owners. We follow the requirements on pets as carefully as we tend to our vehicles. They get their vaccinations, their spaying, neutering, nail clips, that kind of thing.
Over the lifetimes of five big dogs, however, the vet experience has changed.
Take smell, for example.
The vets of the past worked in an olfactory soup, day-old cooked liver competing with a warm cornflake smell. No doubt, urine was a part of this.
The new, up-to-date vet has an office that impresses the visitor with its cleanliness. Bright and cheery, staffed with equally bright and cheery people behind the latest in computer equipment. If there’s a smell it’s the pleasant one of high quality dry dog food, for sale as required.
In the redolent past, our first Lab’s vet greeted her in person and gave her the necessary shots. We shook hands, paid the fee, and that was that.
Now we have levels to pass through.
One delightful person checks us in. Another takes us to a pristine cubicle. We wait.
A woman enters and takes vital signs, hears the reason for the visit and so on. This person is not the vet.
She departs and, again, we wait.
A new person enters, and all the explanations are repeated. I’m not sure she’s the vet until her assistant comes through the door. Together they take my dog into the back where they do whatever is necessary.
I wait.
If we are lucky, the vet returns with the dog to discuss treatments in the latest medical language.
This is a significant change.
Old style vets spoke common, everyday English. Now doctors enjoy displaying the therapeutic Latin they have acquired, no doubt at considerable expense. I understand a lot of it, but does everyone?
If we are unlucky, she recommends testing.
Your dog can now be tested in every way available to you, without the assistance or obstacle of Obamacare, Medicare or just plain insurance. Unless you’ve bought health coverage for your pet, a monthly expense we’ve resisted, so far. The upward effect of insurance on the cost of human medical care is bad enough.
The fact that these tests exist seems to encourage their use.
An old style vet might take a wait-and-see approach. Or just apply the art of diagnosis he or she has developed over years of experience. The new style vet, freshly burnished by A&M or its equivalent, morphs into a duplicate of your very own human internist, offering the certainty of ultrasound and CT scanning. Or MRI.
It seems almost un-American not to pay joyfully for whatever the vet suggests is necessary to the health of the dog you love so much.
Doesn't it?                                                                                                                                                                    

Friday, October 9, 2015

Small is not Trivial

For me, country living provides an alternative to the manufactured stresses of daily life--the global disasters that leap to the surface of all our screens at the tap or slide of a finger. Or push of a button. Something new to fear or deplore every few minutes.

Even fun comes with its jolt of adrenaline. Pop concerts ramp up the bass, fire off lasers and smoke bombs. Apocalyptic movies compete with each other in the race to scare us silly. Visiting Houston, we see the immediate daily result in the rage that simmers on traffic-snarled streets.

People are not meant to live in conditions of sustained alert. When constantly elevated, the major stress hormone, cortisol, harms every process of the human body.

In the country, though, I can tune it all out.

I can measure a day by the passage of the sun across my yard.

Outside the window where I write, I see close-up the bark of a tree, and a nuthatch inching down, headfirst. I see the russet leaves of the loropetalum bush I should have pruned last spring. An atole steals across the window sill; a wasp bumps the pane, wanting cooler air. The slope of sun-cast shadows on the grass tells me it’s fall. Abundant life--and occasional death--are never far away. 

They require no reporter, no headline. No artificially induced fear.

In the country, I find pleasure in small things: The seed head of that old farmer’s bane, Johnson grass, beautifully fringed in the spotlight of an autumn afternoon; the loud silence of a Sunday morning torn by a hawk’s cry; the six white petals on an unknown flower sprouting leafless in the center of our gravel driveway.

Walking the dog, I’m surprised by the rustle of leaves nearby, then a sudden whoosh…whoosh and the hawk’s big dark shadow passes close overhead. In the woods a distance away, a commotion of fussing birds expresses palpable distress. Is it a snake that threatens them, or perhaps that hawk, again? These small occurrences are scarcely noticeable in the middle of our busy routines unless we look. But not one of them is trivial.

So I think of it like this.

I can look outward from myself, at the uncontrollable world, at unimaginable space where even geologic time loses all meaning. I can live from shock to shock on the screen of my computer, smartphone, television and tablet.

Or I can turn away from the anxiety that creates and look down at the ground I'm standing on. And allow myself to resonate in harmony with the ordinary universe I'm part of.

(Under a different title, this column appeared today in the Fayette County Record.)