All dogs and cats- in fact, anything bigger than a loaf of bread and covered with hair (save Dad's toupee)- receive routine veterinary exams, along with the necessary vaccinations to keep them alive for a reasonable number of years. All are also availed of sterilization.
Otherwise, the animals are home, home on the range.
Rover doesn't go to the doctor for dandruff, lethargy or bad breath.
These are acceptable family traits.
Lumps, discharges and skin eruptions are considered on an individual basis.
Likewise, my husband and I don't brush our pets' teeth.
If God had intended to have Fluffy brush, he would have given him hands.
When we do take our pets to the vet, the routine is predictable and somewhat tortuous.
The dogs are easily coerced into the car. As long as we use a childlike, sing-song voice, virtually any words do the trick:
"Baby, baby, little pudding pie....stick a needle in my eye...Mommy's goin' to take you to see that doctor guy!"
Cats are another story. Possessing the innate ability to read calendars, the sneaky creatures know exactly when the vet appointment is and will, in fact, go into hiding up to a week beforehand.
It helps to make a coded notation, something like "Get bananas," which really means "Cage Kitty and remember to wear long sleeves, body armor and goggles!"
Once in the car, I take a big breath. Then I just turn up the radio and resign myself to the cats crying non-stop for 15 miles and the dogs making the repetitive decision to sit in the back-no, the front; no, the back; no, the front.
Strangely enough, these trips become the rare times when I allow country music to slip into my musical repertoire. Poor souls singing about heartbreak and lost love somehow ease my beasts of burden.
I breathe, I sing, and I pray that no one has an accident.
"Just say no to brown, Honey Boy, just say no to brown."
At the vet's office, I check in and am immediately led to the scale, which has its own room; a 10-by-10-foot area with a large, shiny rectangle near one side, attached to a digital-readout contraption on the wall.
It is there that we go through the charade of obtaining an accurate weight for each pet.
The veterinary assistant always stands back a good three feet or so and directs the owner to place the animal in the middle of the slab- virtually impossible without weighing oneself, too.
Honestly, my cat Oreo has within his file, weights of five and 232 pounds.
No one questions the disparity.
I attempted a "drop-in" approach with my other cat, and the scale registered "Air fluff."
My yellow Labrador retriever merely darted across the area, his leash entangled in his hind legs.
The readout blinked, struggling to register, trying to cooperate.
The assistant listed the value as "running weight; 42 to 96 mph."
After the weigh-in, each pet is led to either the cat room or the dog room.
The rooms are identical, except that one has a cat border and the other a dog border, a chorus line of the species in question.
The rooms are simple, each with an examination table and a small counter that holds a trio of glass jars.
The jars contain Q-tips, cotton balls and wooden tongue depressors that have been there since the days of Lassie and Mr. Ed.
The only tool of the trade I've seen in use is the stethoscope. The vet applies it to the animal's chest, waits 20 seconds, if possible, and announces, "His ticker sounds good."
When all is said and done, I usually get out of the vet's office for about $250.
The cost might seem high to some people, but it's a small price to pay to keep my home full of hair and my yard full of, uh...fun.
Besides, can you really put a price on a snuggly-buggly sweetie pie or full-of-lovin' poochy-woochy?
I think not.