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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

A Warning To Young Men

My pets are my children and I would no more call Amy, "Fido" than my mother would have christened me "Spot". Sometimes this naming habit of mine creates very confusing situations and the incident that stands out in my mind happened when my family consisted of David, a dog tortured by fleas; Cindy, a poodle with body odor so potent I was aware of her presence when I pulled the car into the garage; Eileen, a cat with a malevolent attitude and Sarah, a kitten with a bent for projectile vomiting. I decided that a visit to my family vet might be in order to solve some of these problems.

I asked my seven year old neighbor Mark to help me get the animals in the car to take them for their check ups. I needed help because David's constant scratching propelled him all over the car, Eileen despised cages and could chew through their metal bars before I got down the drive, and you know what Sarah did the minute she was confined. Cindy was an especially affectionate little dog. She liked to sit on my lap while I drove and fasten her eyes to mine. When she rested her paws on my shoulders and gazed adoringly at me, I understood how it felt to be in the gas chamber.

The vet's name was Harold Harter. He was so far past the accepted retirement age that he had trouble remembering his name but he insisted he knew his business. His wife Gladys was very sharp and she was his receptionist. His assistant was his son, Young Harold, fresh out of veterinary college, his head filled with advanced technology.

Mark and I managed to herd the four animals into the office and Gladys nodded her greeting. "We are ready for you!" she said. "Harold! The Miller pets are here!"

She ushered us into the examining room and began to recite everybody's symptoms. The doctor cut her short. "I can handle this Gladys," he said. "You go answer the telephone."

He smiled at me and I shook his hand. "This is Mark, doctor, "I shouted. "He came along to help me."

The doctor nodded and picked up Sarah. "What's wrong with this one?" he asked.

Sarah threw up on his sleeve and he nodded to Young Harold. "Better take its temperature, son," he said.

Young Harold nodded and lifted Sarah's tail. He inserted the thermometer and Sarah barfed on his shoe. Dr. Harter directed his attention to David. David was attacking his vermin with such animation that he created a small tornado of air in the room. "Poor fella," he said. "We have a new serum that might help him. Just lift Mark up on the table and I will give him a shot."

Mark took my hand and his eyes filled with tears." I hate shots," he whispered.

I picked up my vibrating puppy and put him on the examining table. "You mean DAVID," I explained.

Dr. Harter gave David his medication and handed him to me. He looked at Cindy. It was warm in that room and Cindy panted as if she were in the desert. Her problem was unmistakable. The doctor inhaled and coughed. "Whew!" he said.

He lifted up my poodle's lips and examined her mouth. When he came up for air, his face was a strange shade of purple. "Needs her teeth cleaned," he gasped. "You'll have to leave her here overnight."

He nodded to Eileen. "What's wrong with HER?" he said.

Eileen hissed. The doctor reached down to lift her and she tore his lab coat into streamers. "She has a bad disposition," I explained. "I think something is hurting her."

The doctor nodded. "I'll give her an antibiotic," he said. "There's a virus going around."

Suddenly, we heard a loud clink. All of us turned to stare at Sarah. Somehow, she had managed to expel the thermometer inside her and it landed on the tile floor. Young Harold grabbed it and read the result. "My God, Dad!" he said. "This cat is SICK!"

I looked at Sarah and I too became concerned. "Her eyes are crossed!" I exclaimed.

The doctor shook his head. "That wouldn't give her digestive problems," he said. "She must have the same virus the other one has."

"But her eyes were fine when I brought her in here," I said.

"No they weren't," said the doctor. "You just didn't notice them. I could cut the optic nerve if it bothers you."

"I don't think that will be necessary," I said and began to gather my animals together to take them home. Eileen was flat out on the floor, David was gnawing at a flea so large it would have dwarfed a gorged mosquito and Sarah? Well, poor Sarah couldn't seem to walk in a straight line. The doctor glanced at the handful of charts in his hand. "If you put Mark up here, " he said. "I'll give him that rabies shot."

Mark fled out the door. "Wait in the car, honey," I called. "I'll be right there."

When I got to the car, Mark helped me get my pets inside the vehicle. "Would you like to come back with me tomorrow to pick up Cindy?" I asked.

He shook his head. "I'm afraid," he said. "What if he makes my eyes cross, too?"

I put my arms around him. "Nonsense," I said. "Just remember to keep your pants buckled up tight and you'll have nothing to worry about."

That incident happened many years ago, but I don't believe I have ever given a young man better advice. I offer it now as a gift to all my male readers: If you want to see things clearly and stay out of trouble, always keep your pants buckled up good and tight.

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