Pepper began to yelp with excitement as soon as I picked up her leash. She assumed we must be going to the dog park. After all, it was the right time of day for chasing tennis balls. Although, in her mind, there is no wrong time.
Daily doses of painkillers and anti-inflammatories had made her bad leg feel good again. So obviously, we must be heading out to play. Obviously.
When she sensed the car slow and pull off the freeway, Pepper sat up in time to see we’d taken a right turn onto the Boulevard. In her mind, the Boulevard only goes to one place. The worst place. The vet’s surgery.
Pepper began to tremble and stress-yawn. In her mind, the vet is a bad, bad, evil man that thoroughly deserves every dog bite or cat scratch he gets in a day. She would love it if he gets rabies as a result, or if he gets distemper or kennel cough or tapeworms.
Two years ago, Pepper had surgery to repair a torn ACL. On the day of the procedure, she walked with a slight limp.
Immediately after the surgery, she couldn’t walk, followed by weeks of pain that didn’t quieten. But, once her knee healed, she was able to run again.
Today’s visit was for another surgery, this time on one of her chest and front left leg. I parked right outside the entrance to the vet’s surgery. When I switched off the engine, I realized Pepper was panting so hard she was shaking the car.
When I opened the passenger door, Pepper pressed her body as hard against the seat back. If we’d been at the park she’d have had her nose pressed against the car door, ready to jump out.
I reached my right arm over her back and under her belly, my left across her chest and around her shoulder. As I lifted the dog, I said, ‘it’s going to be OK.’ I wasn’t sure if I was reassuring Pepper or myself.
As soon as her legs touched the ground, Pepper tried to bolt.
Blind panic set in as the vet tech took Pepper’s leash and led her inside the surgery. With covid restrictions still active, I wasn’t allowed inside the building.
As she went through the surgery door, Pepper looked back with the expression of the condemned.
Later in the day, I carried Pepper from the vet’s surgery to my car. The surgery was a success. The benign mass in her left leg — the mass that was stopping her from walking properly — was gone. Her leg no longer stuck out at an angle when she was standing.
Soon, Pepper will be chasing squirrels and tennis balls. But, before then, we will lose a few nights’ sleep due to post-surgery pain. The vet said it would be worse than after the surgery she had two years ago.