Our little city has grown over the years, new developments have packed houses into most of the available space, up into the hills to mar our views and lining every street with a sea of identical roofs. There are few blank spots on our map anymore. But there is that one, tucked in behind the golf course, a hidden bare piece of land that once was the police shooting range. For a time this was a place into which people rarely entered. So of course this was the logical void to take Vito.
Vito was an old, fat yellow Labrador retriever. He was a gentle soul, slow moving and uncomplicated by excess intelligence, rarely clean and barely housebroke. He passed wind on occasion. Your basic old, fat yellow Labrador…..
Vito belonged to a man. He was a man’s dog. Took me a while to get the measure of this man. I’d known him since he was young. As a young man he tried very hard to come across as hard. He made himself distant, not rude but aloof, devoid of emotion. A man rock.
Wasn't sure why, but then this wasn’t my business. He took reasonable care of Vito and that was where my interest lay.
Phone rang one morning at the VBB hospital. I try to listen in when the receptionist talks on the phone. Old habit. Gives me a hint in advance when some weird is going to land on us. Half of a conversation, but the clues are there.
“Do you have a question for the doctor? Perhaps I can answer it for you.”
From this I knew she answered the phone and the first words from the other side were, “I need to talk to Doc.”
“I see, well the doctor is with a client now. Can I give him a message? I see, well can you hold for a moment?”
I wasn’t with a client. I was sucking down coffee standing next to the reception desk, listening to the weird beginning. My receptionist looked up.
“It’s Mr. Brando, and no, he won’t tell me.”
I’ll take it, and headed to my office….
“Well Doc, you know Vito. He’s getting pretty old, and he can barely walk, and I know it’s time, ya know. So I was gonna shoot him and bury him. Put him out of his misery. I know I could bring him down to you, but this is a man’s job and I was gonna do it.”
OK….always act as if you agree with them to keep them talking. Then maybe you can figure why they are talking.
“Well anyway, I took Vito out behind the golf course, you know, and I carried him out of the Jeep and I got the shovel and started to dig the hole. I had my pistol and I was gonna just shoot him in the head and roll him into the hole and bury him. Ya know. So anyway, I started to dig and Vito was just laying there next to me and this stick was in the way, so I threw it away. And you know what? That damn dog got up and fetched that stick. So I saw that and I figured it weren’t time yet. So can you take a look at Vito for me and tell me what I can do to keep him around a little longer?”
We got almost three more years of life out of ole Vito, with some weight loss and some meds for his arthritis, and with the directive that Marlon throw the stick for Vito whenever the need arose. And when the time came, Marlon brought Vito in to me. He didn’t cry then. Too hard for that. But he did treat me with some bit more respect and and a touch of friendship over the years.
After his father passed, Marlon even smiled from time to time. Never talked about his father of course, but I’d known that man too. Didn’t need to go there.
This time Marlon didn’t call first. He just showed up in the hall of our hospital. With a question.
“Doc…..Bruno keeps getting jumped by the two pitbulls down the street. He fights them but he keeps getting beat up.”
Now, I might have mentioned that he could keep Bruno from walking down the street to fight those two, but Marlon wasn’t waiting for this answer. He had another answer in mind.
“I need to get Bruno a female, so he can mate with her, for there are no more ferocious fighters than a mated pair. So I want to get him a female Lab, so they can mate and be paired for life.”
“But I need to know, I need a pill or some kind of abortion because I don’t want puppies. I just want them to mate.”
Marlon wants me to help him get his dog laid. This is not an unusual request, generally from the male owners of male dogs, but occasionally from a female owner with a female dog. The female owners are more interested in the mommy experience, or at least I think they are. I don’t generally get into specifics at these times.
We get requests like this. Not as often as we get, “Can I catch anything from my dog, you know, when we……?” But we get requests like this.
I come up with answers to such questions most of the time. Carefully. But I’m at a loss how to answer this one.
Perhaps with the truth…….