Butch has never been particularly enthusiastic about riding in the car, and he's resisted it even more than usual on our many recent trips to the veterinarian. (I guess enough anal probes could have that effect on an otherwise affable pooch.) Yesterday, when I had to take him back to the vet to get his stitches removed, I was expecting quite a struggle.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
When Butch heard me get the leash out of the cabinet, he walked to the front door and waited. Outside, he didn't pull away from the car. He stood quietly until I opened the door, then climbed right up inside it, crossed the back seat and assumed his usual riding position: standing up with his head between the door post and the back of the front seat.
He seemed to be in such a good mood. He didn't pant, didn't tremble, didn't whine. Thirty-five minutes later, when we arrived at the vet's office, Butch didn't wait for me to open the back car door. Instead, he climbed forward between the front seats, over the console and the emergency brake, and followed me out the front door. I barely had time to grab his leash first.
Once out of the car, he didn't fool around. He walked carefully to the curb, took a step up, and led me toward the front door, barely stopping to sniff all the wonderful doggy smells on the sidewalk. He waited patiently while I opened the outer door, then the inner door. Inside, he couldn't have been happier.
It was five o'clock, and the lobby was crowded. Butch worked the crowd. If he'd been human, I would have thought he was politicking, so eager he was to meet all the people and make new friends. He stretched the leash as far as it would go in the direction of each voice he heard, his tail wagging furiously.
After we checked in, we moved over to a seating area to wait. Butch knew the lay of the land. He quickly zeroed in on the table where the treat jar stands and made it his business to buddy up to the lady seated next to it. It didn't take more than 15 seconds for him to score a couple of treats. That lady indulged him for a while, and as soon as she left, another woman who'd been seated nearby got up and moved into the vacated seat. She picked up where the first lady left off, petting Butch and offering him (low-cal) treats. He bestowed many kisses on both of them.
When the vet tech came to take us to the back, Butch followed through the lobby and down the hall as if he could see everything clearly -- didn't miss a step. Inside the exam room, he stood beside me for just a moment, then lay down comfortably on the floor to wait. He showed no signs of stress whatsoever.
The vet came in, and Butch rose to greet her, exchanging his kisses and tail wags for her skritches and still more treats. While this was going on, she and I talked about his progress, and then it was time for him to step up onto the stainless steel table, the one that rises up to waist height at the touch of a button.
Huh-uh. Not gonna do it. The instant Butch's foot touched the table, he pulled it back and dropped into a sitting position on the floor. The vet tech attempted to put her arms under his belly to lift him, so he countered with his favorite anti-bath move: he fell over onto his back and went completely limp, legs sticking out in every direction.
There's no picking him up when he does that.
I give the vet credit for being a good sport. She abandoned the table idea, thrust a handful of treats into my palm, and assigned me the job of holding Butch's head and distracting him with the treats. The vet tech knelt beside him to keep his body still. And the vet, bless her heart, got down on the floor on her knees and elbows, held Butch's tail out of her way somehow, and carefully clipped and plucked the stitches out of his butt.
I chatted with the vet a bit more, after which Butch held his head high as we made one last pass among his "constituents" and left the building. There's no doubt in my mind that if he had understood the concept of applause, he would have expected it.
(First published at Velvet Sacks on June 18, 2008.)