SHE phoned one evening, some time ago. The conversation went something like this.
“Oh, hello” (slightly evasive, recognise the slurred voice,visualise the lips moving at a slightly different pace from the voice,the consequence of an unequal battle with the vineyards finest, I muse).
“Do you know they won’t let Monica into the movies?”
“Who is Monica?”
Slight pause while I digested this startling revelation. She proceeded to regale me with the story of the expulsion of her pooch from the movie theatre, growing more and more animated as she digested the injustice.
“So what are you going to do about it, doc?”
Slight pause again, after which I suggested that it was beyond my sphere of influence, an argument that I was prepared to defend with a certain amount of conviction. The conversation culminated with her explaining at length and in graphic detail that I was part of the conspiracy (together with everyone in authority, from the president to Post- man Pat). It was around about then that I terminated the conversation.
Monica, in the meanwhile, grew older and more frail and was eventually diagnosed with terminal cancer and was treated at regular intervals by members of my practice. My next direct contact with her owner was a request for a house call to examine her ailing dog. I was made available as my partners mysteriously disappeared when the call came through.
I found her little cottage in a quaint cobbled lane. Few pleasantries were traded as she led me into a dingy bedroom. Illumination was not high on her list of priorities. Neither was hygiene. The room was dominated by a large bed which was used less for slumber and more as a storage surface for the flotsam and jetsam of a lonely existence. This included a number of aged magazines, coffee mugs with various volumes of residue and at least three ashtrays with ash and butts of various lengths. The pungent smell of human and dog prevailed.
The dog lay on the floor between numerous double pages of last week’s Witness and scattered blankets, the function of which, I reasoned, was to protect both human and dog from the winter chill. Examining the immobile dog was not easy as she did not greet me with love and affection, as if she held me personally responsible for denying her access to the movie house.
But the bond of love with her owner was tangible. And as I knelt on the floor, with the plop, plop, plop of sniffs and tears of sadness on the sports page next to my head, my ears to the stethoscope and my eyes on the exposed canines, I realised that although Monica was ultimately destined for a realm where pain and suffering was not a factor, now was not the time.
Love ultimately pushes back the boundaries of physical endurance.
So instead of a lethal injection, I treated the symptoms, painting a bleak picture and expecting to make the final call shortly.
Against all odds, though, Monica rallied. The next morning she walked outside, found her favourite spot in the sun and resumed her place in the household. And for a couple of months thereafter I assumed the role of saviour. Far better than pariah.
Eventually and inevitably, though, the end came and the light was mercifully extinguished.
And it was not that long afterwards that I read, with an element of understanding, the death notice of the owner of a little cottage in a quaint cobbled lane.• The author is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.