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September 13, 2007

CAAF: Because it is small and shrill, and because it is my heart.

Today the dog is having her teeth cleaned. She is a tiny thing, and we've been quaking all week about having her put under anesthesia. I tend to bring up dogs like I myself was raised -- matted but coddled -- and days like this I wish I were a better, more regular steward.

Last night she received a walk, a bath, treats and a half-hour of her favorite game, Bungalow Ball, and this morning we -- Mr. Tingle, me and the dog -- rolled into the animal hospital parking lot at an early hour. We were brought to an examination room for weigh-in (4.4 pounds) and a pre-cleaning consultation with the vet. In the past this has always been a perfunctory little exchange that concludes in a flourish of waiver-signing. Not this morning. A vet we've never met before came springing into the room and embarked on what has to have been the longest lecture ever given on the topic of canine dental hygiene. Forty minutes! As my husband said later, "I knew we were in trouble as soon as he drew the diagram of the wolf jaw."

The lecture was in the grand sermon style, expertly alternating between sounding the notes of terror (abscesses! fractures!) and comfort (x-rays! newest monitoring technology!). Overall it seemed less educational than designed to make us feel kindly disposed toward whatever bill we're presented with later today.

Comparing notes on the ride home, Mr. Tingle said the experience had reminded him of sitting in a Baptist church. For me it had been like the scene in Jane Eyre where young Jane is lectured by Mr. Brocklehurst, the superintendent of Lowood, on the importance of reading Psalms. At one point, the vet was telling us about the holiest of holy dogs, a golden retriever who waits in the hallway each evening for its owner to brush and floss its teeth, and all I could think of was this exchange:

"And the Psalms? I hope you like them?"
"No, sir."
"No? oh shocking! I have a little boy, younger than you, who knows six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather have, a ginger-bread nut to eat, or a verse of a Psalm to learn he says: 'Oh! The verse of a Psalm! angels sing Psalms;' says he, 'I wish to be a little angel here below;' he then gets two nuts in recompense for his infant piety."
"Psalms are not interesting," I remarked.

Posted September 13, 2007 11:41 AM

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