The Cruellest Month

Here is how April came and went.
The weather that day was probably lovely because I at least remember taking Louis down to the beaches before it happened, a pleasant 45-minute jaunt from the house and back.

It was as I was making dinner that I noticed the twitching; little jumps and spasms that ran up and down his legs and caused his dachshund back to bunch up in a kind of inverted “C” and forced his nose to the down to the tile even as he tried to look up at me with his eyes.  Then it passed and there he was, begging for food again.

The next day, the twitching started again.  Then it stopped.  Then there he was, getting up and down and up and down and up and down again and again and again and not being able to settle anywhere because, we later found out, it was painful for him and he was trying to figure Things out in the only way he really could…
The Saddest Place in the World
Toronto.  Home of the V-E-C, an emergency veterinary trauma centre.  With over 200 employees and over 20, 000 patients a year, the VEC is one of the busiest veterinary facilities in the country…

Going to the emergency vet is a lot like needing to buy a used Jeep that you already own from a car salesman you really want to sort of like.  But you can’t because he’s got this kind of power over you – a little condescending, nearly snide, unavoidable – and so your impression of him finally hardens to a mild contempt that you find increasingly difficult to control but surprisingly easy to suppress, considering.

It’s pretty much exactly like that.

We had been transferred to the care of Toronto’s Veterinary Emergency Clinic after two days of guesswork from another vet, who was actually kindhearted and accommodating even in the face of his spectacular and total failure to provide us with a viable diagnosis.  But that’s what referrals are for.

The VEC is a strange, strange place.  I had been there before when Lou had eaten something truly rotten in High Park and had blood coming out where blood must not ever come out.  That was a little over two years ago.

Standing there again in the foyer, the whole place smelling of ammonia and accented with watery-eyed portraits of spaniels and longhaired cats taken by a pretty good photographer, surely.  You can see grown men in tears at the VEC and women pacing outside, smoking cigarettes wedged between rigid fingertips. The first time I was there, at the VEC, I saw a small family by the doors, dressed in their Sunday best, crying silently, the boy clutching a tiny doggy bed.

I noticed they installed an aquarium since the last time, one of those flat, wide-screen tanks with the bright, impossible blue water that hang on the wall and are full of plastic articulated fish – all of it hermetically sealed from the inside out.

One less worry.

The two new vets put in charge of Louis’ care I have dubbed Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon.  Dr. Liz Lemon’s last name was something that sounded like “Lemon”. I can’t remember what his face looked like, but he had one.  It may have been unique, even, or at least I don’t remember him having a face I already know.

Not my Father.  Not the Pope.  Not Tony Soprano or Shaquille O’Neal.

Hence, Dr. Liz Lemon.

“Lizzing is a combination of laughing and whizzing.”

“And I don’t really think that it’s fair for me to be on a jury because I’m a hologram.”

Many people tend to think of crisis professionals as kind of saviours; more than hero-people who get interjected into the trauma at exactly when they need to be there.  In the moment, it’s hard enough to try to understand what’s happening. So in retrospect, maybe – maybe there are saviour-y people among us – saving us from circumstance as only fully trained and appropriately compensated personnel can.

So Dr. So-and-So was maybe not a hero, and maybe he was, but above all else he was a hard-nosed professional.

  • Clipped.
  • To. The. Point.
  • Detail Oriented.

He personality itemized the bill for us, which was, in its way, extremely thoughtful.


Everything on this costs money.

It was clear that the relationship between Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon was one of superior/subordinate, with Dr. Liz Lemon, I imagine, fetching pricey lattes for each of them during every shift even though, come to think of it, he never had a coffee habit before he started at the VEC…

Even heroes have to start somewhere.

Actually, they film a reality show at the VEC called ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre (narrated by the disembodied voice of singer/songwriter Jan Arden).  It’s a lot like the show ER from a few years ago, but with animals as patients instead of people and so much more thoughtful contemplation of indistinct x-rays. Having watched ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre a few times in that dead TV hour between 7:00PM – 8:00PM, I felt as though the voice should have been there during my episode too, setting up procedures and an embedding motives. Moving the plot along.
Four Options That Were Really Three That Was One Half of Everything 
*OPTION 1: It’s a compressed disc, a common aliment of the long-backed dachshund.  If treated immediately, the dog will return to 90% his old self. Pay for this.

*OPTION 2:  It’s meningitis, another genetic propensity of those wonderful dachshunds.   Treat this right now and the dog may survive, after a fashion.  Pay for this.

*OPTION 3:  It’s *OPTION 1 and *OPTION 2.  Pay for both.

*OPTION 4:  It could be one or the other, and treating one will not preclude the other if the other is in fact what is really happening.  Pay for both.

There was also the ***PERM-OPTION***: put the dog down and end it all.

If he had been untreatable and/or incurable pain then, yes, it would have been a considered Option.

My emptied savings account and newfound willingness to dance for money says that it was otherwise and that we, accordingly, chose otherwise.
Happy Birthday(s)
Stephen and I have our birthdays in April.  How about that?
Operation Option 4 (a.k.a. “Operation Disembodied Voice of Singer/Songwriter Jan Arden”)
A day after Option 4 was executed, Dr. Liz Lemon called to say:

“At this point, we feel it’s best for Louis to come home for his recovery instead of continuing his stay with us. He didn’t sleep at all last night. He just sat there…staring at us with his eyes.”

Later, I found out that Lou had quickly earned a reputation as perhaps one of the most difficult dogs the VEC has had to deal with in recent memory.

Good boy!
The Dog Is Leaking 
“…the fact is that dogs put on IVs can leak urine for days after the IV had been removed.  Possibility the leaking is from a urinary tact infection, which we neglected to warn you might happen after the kind of surgery your dog has had but, hey, we’re telling you now.  Just watch it for a while and we’ll do something if it persists.”
No Laundry
We had no laundry.  For the four-to-five days Lou was leaking, we could not do laundry because the plumbing in our building was backed up.  We were also paranoid of leaving the house in case something happened and we needed to go back to the VEC (a $60 round trip by taxi that required both of us to handle Lou, given his condition), so going out to shop for diapers and pee pads and whatever was not an Option.

Our solution?  Milk the dog.  Try to catch the drips before they hit the carpet or very soon after they hit he carpet.  Um, we used a lot of towels, turning them and hand-washing them in the bathtub in a constant cycle of >>> HOLY OH MY FUCK WHAT ELSE???

(what else?)

Our dog needs a towel boy.

They tell us now it tree roots that were blocking the pipes and oh my god!  Right now! Look how many fucks I give.
1 +1 = 0.5 Medication
The following transpired early Monday morning because getting an answer on Sunday evening is all but possible save for the Lord.  

(Lights up:  CINDY is sitting hunched over at the kitchen table, leaning heavily on her hand as her right arm rests on the surface, her other hand jamming an outdated Sony Ericsson “brick” into her ear.  The voice of DR. LIZ LEMON can be heard crackling intermittently from the phone.  From the window in front of CINDY’s tired form we can see that it’s, let say, overcast?)

CINDY:  “Yes.  I’m sorry I didn’t notice it earlier, but it seems Lou only has half of the little pills he needs for the pain.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (a tinge of condescension, nearly snide in his voice): “Right. ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 8 hours for 5 days.  Then give ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 12 hours for 5 days.  OK?  That’s 25.”

CINDY: (clam, persistent given task at hand):  “O-K.  Yeah.  But he has to take TWO of those a day, so it should be, like, 50.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (not even slightly mollified):  “Oh. I see.  Well, I’ll write it up and you can just come down here and get it.  I’ll have it waiting at reception.  Don’t worry.  You won’t have to pay.”

CINDY: (who has already paid for the full prescription and realizing that the next three hours will be devoted to crossing the city to pick up the pills and, more importantly, that well-timed witty retorts are not something you can gainfully trade off on in real life):  “Thanks. So.  Much.”
Summer Plans
“Hey!  Aren’t you guys going away in, like, a few weeks?”

“We are no longer going away due to total lack of funds.  Spare change?”

“Huh?  What?  Whyyy?”

“Here is how April came and wen…you know what, man?  Just read the blog.”

“What blog?”

My blog.”

“You have a blog?”


“Is it any good?”
A Jan Arden Voiceover Is Going on Now
After a harrowing few days, full of tears and woe and heart wrenching decisions, Louis Jefferson Phan was finally able to go home. Thanks to the skill and care of Doctor So-and-So and Liz Lemon was there too and because of the well-motivated work of the staff VEC, the future looking bright for the little dog that could.
…In Other Words:
We’re back to being around even now, minus all of the above.




Filed under Dogs, Interruptions

7 responses to “The Cruellest Month

  1. There have been so many times I’ve just wanted to say, “go read my blog,” in lieu of trying to explain something with, you know….verbal skills.

    So glad Louis is OK.

    • Thanks Logy! He’s getting better by the day, although he’s still a little wobbly. The funds remain in intensive care but that’s what ramen noodles every day forever are for.

      Yeah dude. Verbal skills are hard when you have to express them, like, verbally. Out loud.

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