this morning i took maude to the vet to get her teeth cleaned. her breath is terrible. if you’ve ever met maude and stood within smelling distance of her face, then you know. sometimes when i need to remove my nail polish i just hold my hand up to her face and the fumes peel it right off. but i’ve gotten used to maude’s breath over the past few years, and am even a bit defensive when others bring it up. people say “ooh, her breath stinks,” and i think to myself, yeah, yours would too if you grew up in a cage and your owners neglected your dental care for the first four years of your life. i almost never say that out loud.
when they clean a dog’s teeth, they have to use general anesthesia. if they didn’t, there would be a lot of vets out there with missing fingers. so when i took her to the vet, they told me i could pick her up that evening. i thought about her all day at work — she’s probably getting her teeth cleaned now. ooh, i bet she’s awake now. i wonder if she’s okay. i kept checking my phone to see if the vet had called. they didn’t call, though, so i figured everything was fine.
and it was fine. when i got there after work and said i was there to get maude, the lady at the counter said, “oh! our little sweetie.” i didn’t tell her that maude’s docile demeanor in these situations isn’t sweet so much as her own personal demonstration of abject terror.
i watched a pug playfully beat up a doberman while they got my invoice ready. “okay,” the lady said when she came back to the counter, “they did bloodwork and clipped her nails and did her vaccinations, and of course, the dental. there were ten extractions, but they only charged you for half of them because she’s so sweet.”
“there were what now?” i said. i figured they’d have to remove some teeth, but i didn’t think it’d be that many.
“they had to take out ten of her teeth.”
“wow,” i said. “does she have any left?”
she must have assumed it was a rhetorical question, because she didn’t answer it. “here are some antibiotics for her, so that her mouth doesn’t get infected. don’t feed her or give her any antibiotics tonight, because she’s probably still nauseous from the anesthesia, but you should start them tomorrow.”
another lady came over, carrying maude with her. “here you go,” she said, handing her to me. “she was fast asleep.” maude felt limp in my arms; her eyes were narrow and glassy, her tongue stuck out just a little. i put my face up to hers, but she didn’t lick my nose like she usually does.
“she’s mad at me for leaving her here all day,” i said.
when i put maude in the passenger seat of my car, she didn’t stand up or sniff my purse for treats like she usually does. she stayed seated exactly where i put her, her head hanging. i hadn’t seen her look so despondent since the first day i brought her home. for a second i thought that maybe i should have asked if i could keep her teeth. but what would i do with them? do people usually keep their pets’ teeth? would the vet have thought i was weird if i’d asked? i decided against going back inside.
i stopped for gas on the way home. when i go to the gas station and maude’s with me, she usually moves to the driver’s seat while i’m outside the car, i think because the seat is warm and it gives her a better view of me. she likes to make sure i’m not going away, i guess. after i set the gas pump to fill the tank, i looked through the open driver’s side window to check on her. i was surprised to see that she’d gotten up and moved to the driver’s seat as usual. i was even more surprised to see that she was peeing.
“maude!” i said, as if this would make her stop. of course it didn’t; she kept on peeing, but i’d called her name, so now she was peeing and staring at me. “dammit!” i said, and went to look for paper towels. the rows of gas pumps closest to me featured empty paper towel racks, so i had to walk over to the farthest one before i found any. as i walked back to the car, wad of towels in hand, i saw maude’s little head peeking out over the passenger-side window.
i sopped up the dog pee from my seat while maude stared blankly at me. she has the most inscrutable stare i’ve ever seen on a dog. my sister says it’s a worried look, and maybe she’s right, but maude didn’t look worried this time. she looked relieved.
the vet had given me maude’s medicine in a plastic bag. i ripped the bag in half, spread it out over the driver’s seat, and sat down gingerly for the ride home. maude slept the entire way.
later i thought about why she had chosen the driver’s seat to pee in. people use crates to housetrain their pets because animals don’t urinate or defecate where they sleep or eat. if you put a dog in a crate, she won’t pee while she’s in it. this training method didn’t really work for maude — she never peed in her crate, but as soon as you let her out she’d pee right there on the carpet. to train her i had to take her out often and use lots of treats.
when we go places in the car, maude’s always in the passenger seat, and she usually sleeps most of the way. so naturally she didn’t pee in the passenger seat. she peed in the driver’s seat! where i sit! if she were human, this would make her incredibly selfish. but she’s a dog, so i’ll give her a pass, and another pass because she’d just had surgery, and a third pass because i should have let her pee before we got in the car.
the best thing i’ve heard anyone say in at least a week: “your friends are your friends, right? you love them, and everything else is secondary.”