Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lady J gets done

I’d never been anywhere with just Lady J before. But she did well, taking Hoss’ place in front of the bike trotting along, tail up, past all the usual canine nuisances that leap from decks or snarl behind fences. She was as happy as a sandboy when we got into town, happy and tired. The clinic had been set up behind a hotel, in a covered over piece of the parking lot immediately beside the caretaker’s place, actually it almost was the caretaker’s place, a low slung half wall separating us from his bed, rice cooker, blender, refrigerator, table, chairs, stove and sink. An old framed picture of two white kittens hung above a poster of the national soccer team, the door to what I presume was his bathroom was plastered with pictures of Marley, women and soccer players. His reggae was the soundtrack for the morning.

I was number 12. I recognized two of the women ahead of me, gringas. I had seen them around town and at shaun’s but had never really had a conversation with them. There were another two gringas and 3 men, all ticos. A young, surly veterinary nurse was calling names and giving shots. Some of the dogs were screaming, behaving even worse than Hoss when confronted with a needle (I thought of his first and last acupuncture treatment). I had never taken Lady J to a vet before but wondered how she would do, she is such a beautiful dog she didn’t mind the needle at all.

The clinic consisted of two folding tables, a fan and an electric shaver. There was another table littered with syringes, latex gloves and gauze. The vet was obese, a huge man with a beard and a rasta hat. This was definitely a Caribbean experience. On top of each table was a pink wooden trough, v-shaped at about an angle of 60 degrees. Into this the female cats and dogs were laid belly up. Their legs were tied to the table legs, they were shaved and wiped with iodine and then, trussed, legs akimbo, tongues lolling with only a local anesthetic waited for the vet. I had been there at Hoss’ neutering. Amazed that I was allowed not only to see the operation, but had to help. Back in the States it was such a delicate affair. Forms were signed in case the inconceivable happened during surgery, owners bid farewell to their pets, the waiting room was hushed and staff whispered assurances,

“She’ll be fine, she’s in good hands you know, come back tomorrow, yes we’ll phone if we need to.”

The anxious night, oh but she’ll wake up alone, and the joyful and careful reunion in the morning when one was always slightly surprised at the continued grogginess of the loved one.

“keep her quiet for 5 days, no outside play, spray her with this every 12 hours, if there’s any questions call us.”

‘Quiet for 5 days’, how was this achieved? But that was then, this is now. The vet sat to operate his massive form lurching over the tiny body below him. His tools were laid out on a bloodstained green cloth over a stainless steel tray. The first one I watched from 10 feet away, not sure if it was okay to look. But by the second I was by the table and chatting to the vet.

“This is the uterus, it’s longer in dogs, you can tell she’s had a litter already, there’s more fat. Here’re the ovaries.”

It was a small incision and then he pulled out the whole apparatus with a blunt hook, clamped it, cut and tied it and pushed it back in. He made the first lengthways stitch – abdominal wall, subcutaneous tissue, skin – and back again and then moved to the next patient. His nurse finished the stitching and moved the client to an area of the floor which had been covered in opened cardboard boxed. It took about 5 minutes maximum. The males were lain on the table and operated on from behind, the incision being made just in front of their sacs, the gonads pulled out, clamped, cut and tied, the stumps pushed back in and everything sewn. The vet said he could do about 60 operations a day. The team of three – the vet’s wife was there to collect money, had come from Limon and were part of a nationwide program to sterilize pets and strays. There are so many street dogs here and some municipalities deal with the issue by putting out poison a couple of days a year. Too bad if you miss that note in the newspaper. I was fascinated by the whole procedure and enamored by the experience. While Lady J was being done the caretaker was frying chicken just over the wall, about 3 feet from us. With only a local anasthetic LJ’s nose was twitching at the smell. I looked at her uterus, it didn’t look so different from a piece of chicken. I caught myself wondering what it would taste like. I asked if mine looked the same,

“No, see all this? you don’t have it, the ovaries look similar but all this uterus is necessary because she has multiple offspring, yours is much smaller than this.”

Lady J had had a litter of 4 pups in the spring, that was before she came to live with me. I knew her pups though, lovely dogs, and her mother, a beautiful even tempered husky. She had felt what it was like to be a mother, had given birth, nursed, weaned and left her pups. She had come into season since I had her and she was a randy thing always sneaking off to get laid. I wondered if she would notice that things were different. To remove the uterus, the ovaries, everything. She would produce no more hormones. How would her temperament change, how would other dogs change their reactions towards her? I knew I was doing the right thing, she couldn’t have more puppies and roaming male dogs are a threat to Hoss and the cats. But it had been part of her. Hoss had been younger, he was inexperienced (though I was surprised to find out that he mated with LJ and Sasha when they were in heat), it didn’t really change anything, just redirected his wiring perhaps. But she had experienced the whole cycle and now I was stopping the it completely. I can’t help draw parallels to my own life: I am still in the cycle, producing the hormones (craving the chocolate), but have had no, nor will have no, motherhood experience. It felt a bit like betrayal.

A taxi came for us 10 minutes after the surgery, we loaded her and the bike onboard and then back home. Now she’s lying on the deck, groggy but awake.