NOTE: I wrote this on the bus, so please be kind if it’s not up to snuff.
There are some things in life that will squeeze your heart until it feels like it will pop.
Dads with babies. The first tree to turn red in the fall. Soldier homecomings. A perfectly toasted bagel with cream cheese. A hug when you’ve been without human contact for a while.
And, as it turns out, a sad veterinarian.
Now, it’s worth this caveat. It was really early when I saw my vet today. Maybe he, like me, has a hard time mustering energy in the morning. Maybe the coffee machine was broken. Maybe.
But maybe not. See, my normally effusive vet seemed, well, droopy. He was still his amazing vet self, getting down on the floor with Sadie for her exam and remembering that she’s lousy at catching food. But he was quieter than usual, and when she looked at him helplessly as he tried to toss her a treat, he rushed toward her almost desperately, telling her it was ok, she didn’t have to do anything she didn’t like, she was still awesome. The exam over, he lingered on just petting her, scratching her ears, telling her how great she is.
And when he walked us out of the clinic, he seemed to want to just hang out with her. Sadie, of course, had spotted the door and was ready G.O., but he made her linger for one last ear rub.
As I and my super healthy pooch left the animal hospital, I asked myself what could make someone like this vet sad. And my heart cracked a little, because, after all, he’s a vet, and not all animals are healthy.
30 minutes later, as I was leaving the apartment to go to work, Sadie and I did our normal departure ritual:
- She gets excited for a moment when I approach the door…
- then realizes we aren’t going for a you-know-what…
- then climbs onto her quilt on the couch….
- and presents me with her backside.
- I give her one last ear rub, tell her I love her, and depart.
Today, thinking of my vet, I lingered on the ear rub. I thought to myself: “I might miss my bus because of this need to smoosh my face into the soft fur of her head. But that’s ok.”
I did miss the bus. By 15 seconds at the most. And it was ok.
I had to walk to the next bus stop in the crisp New England fall air. I had time to tilt my head up to watch the sun set just the tips of the leaves afire in my neighborhood. My world is poised to explode into autumn color, but it hasn’t happened yet.
It was so beautiful. Almost too beautiful for my already full heart. All I could do was be grateful and hope I was wrong about my vet.
Maybe he just hadn’t had his coffee. I hope that was it. I really, really hope so.