She had a male black cat and a female black lab. I loved her right away because she reminded me of the mom of a kid I grew up with. Did you ever do that? Have a connection right away with someone because somehow the other person reminds you of someone you knew back home. There is a certain warmth….
That old familiarity
Both of us were transplants from Chicago, so we took off like a couple of old friends. We actually didn’t live too far from each other when we did live there. Both of us were from the Northwest side. And, even though we had both been here a fair amount of time, we still wore a part of the city on the outside. She wore a flowered babushka in classic style around her head like every older lady I knew, friend or family. We loved exchanging recipes. Her favorite was my eggplant. My favorite was her dumplings. We were comfortable.
Her wellness appointments were made a long time in advance. And the time was set almost identical year after year. A few times a year she’d come in for cat food. He was on C/D. Or there might be the occasional lab ear infection.
A well-worn routine
Once a year she’d come in with the two of them at the same time for “the works”. They were just like her – outgoing and amiable as all get out. A typical small black lab girl, her tail never stopped swinging. And she never stopped smiling broadly. She was so happy and mild that she paid little notice to the pokes she was getting. Same with the cat. It was almost a festive occasion when they came in. And when the whole hub bub was over, out they all went. We did this little relationship for nine years.
An end to the connection
All of a sudden she stopped coming in for cat food. There was no once a year ear infection for the lab or tapeworm meds for the cat. No appointment made for “the works”. I called and called. I wrote. But, I got no reply.
We heard she went grocery shopping, walked in her door with a bag of groceries in each arm and fell to the floor. She was found dead.
From then on the information stopped. We knew she had a husband, though we never met him. We knew they had no children (sans the dog and cat.) Mister never called and never wrote. We kept the file active just in case another clinic called for records but they never did. We never knew what happened to any of them. That never stopped weighing heavy on me. It’s been many years now and it’s still unsettling.
A change upon us
She and I had a bond. But it was the Bond with her pets that brought us both together and formed our relationship. So I was sad about all of them. It was another example of some of the facets of the Human Animal Bond – healthcare givers are included in this. I saw examples of this Bond from those that mentored me. This Bond between healthcare givers and our families has been around a long long time.
Now, here we are. A hundred years later. And the standard ways of delivering healthcare for pets is being challenged at every turn. Our place in the Human Animal Bond is also being strained. We used to use the term ‘curbside’ to stand for food pick up. Now we use it as one of the ways you can continue delivering healthcare. And, even though these ways of doing business are nuts and everyone is getting crankier and crankier, you continue to persevere…. even when you don’t want to.
Voices of renewal
In the middle of all the noise there are new voices that are not to be denied. They are messengers in the middle of this mess that are jacked up with excitement. I was like them a long time ago and maybe you were too. I’m amazed at how they keep looking forward with laser precision. They are planning their futures, getting married, fighting causes, all in the midst of world crisis. In the face of hell breaking loose, they deal and maneuver and are fearlessly innovative. They are the pathbreakers among us. They get it. They get that modification is going to help them keep going and thrive. I love these voices because they speak of opportunity without cheerleading. You can’t always hear them above the din, but, they’re out there and they are making a presence.
Doing deals and plotting their course
And, they’re not just kicking the can down the alley. They testify about how we’ll need to take better care of ourselves AND each other. They speak of imaginative change.
With machetes they cut through the bullshit and preach about UNITY and COMMUNITY and COMPASSION in the workplace. And they recognize – one of the gifts they bring to their COMMUNITY is acknowledging the value of the Human Animal Bond.
The past and future
This piece started with a story from a long time ago. It is about a relationship, in a community and the delivering of healthcare to pets between two people. Sometimes relationships end sadly, but they were worth the pain. The mentors that I learned from taught me what a special place health caregivers have in the Human Animal Bond. After witnessing that magic, I wanted to bring it along with me in my career. I see the incoming new sprouts doing the same. They feel the magic and are bringing it along with them on their path.
Rounding the corner
While it’s true we don’t know exactly how this is all going to shake out, we are pretty sure adjustments will be needed in our new space. Not unlike a very old house, we’ll need to renovate.
Let’s not overlook the pioneers that are coming up the hill. It’s going to be theirs someday and they know it. They already have clear and focused eyes. My kind will eventually get out of their way so they can create their own world, write their own chapters. And, they’ve got their work to do. They’ll have to clean up the mess we made first. They’ve been living and breathing in one great big rumble.
But, I do find it heartening that fifty years from now there might be someone who might want to swap recipes with someone across the counter or on a farm.