It was when the gigantic dog sitting across from me farted — a colossal, mephitic, asphyxiating fart, whose sulfurous tendrils snaked into the recesses of my skull and all but blurred my vision — that a lifetime inclination to agnosticism crystallized into the final certainty that there is no God.
The dog was apparently at the vet’s office to get staples out from a recent surgery, and her owner, the kind of muscle-shirted, unsmiling, shaven-headed guy that you know has a gigantic dog because it makes him look badassed, did not acknowledge the fart but herded her off shortly at a call from the vet. I exhaled.
I was there waiting to find out how bad things were with Torvald. After a year of holding pretty steady on medication for congestive heart failure — they warned me there might be a day or two like this — he had suddenly gone kinda slo-mo and then started breathing thirty-two, thirty-eight, finally forty-eight to the minute, when thirty is supposed to be the absolute tops for a cat at rest, no matter how much Lasix I slammed down him. After the third reading I bunged him in the carrier and hurtled to the vet. I think if they had had a crash cart they would have brought it out. I hate that moment, when your sick animal, boxed into a plastic-and-metal crate, is swept away from you without your having even a second to hold him. At least the bastard with the farting dog could pat her on the head.
After a while they stuck me in a consulting room — away from other dogs of any gaseous output — and a cheery, dumpy little vet came in to show me x-rays that displayed clear signs of fluid in his lungs, how surprising, and a slightly larger heart than any previous images. They had him in an oxygen chamber with a little peekaboo window through which I could pet him, they were pumping more Lasix into him, and he might be able to go home at midnight and might have to stay the night.
He stayed the night. When this happens the night shift vet calls you at 5:30 a.m. to give you an update. You cannot believe how chipper I can manage to sound at 5:30 in the morning. He was ready to go home, he was breathing about forty to the minute, but then he was at the vet and he was really ready to go home, as the tech who brought him out to us a few hours later observed. (The Engineer, a mensch, drove the car. At this point I was completely blown out.)
“He hissed at me,” she said. “Sounds like him,” I replied.
The cardiology practice saw him at noon. True to form, as soon as we arrived he peed in the carrier. He didn’t entirely hate it until they started his exam:
but once he was taken into the room with the echocardiogram equipment, he hissed and yowled at the technician, had to be decanted from the carrier in a cumbersome three-person maneuver, revolved like a lawn sprinkler with claws when it was time to assume the position on the ultrasound table, and generally declared to the world that he was going to be Ragnar Lodbrok and die with his sword in his hand. By some miracle, no one got bit.
By the time they finished his exam report, took all my money that the regular vet hadn’t already gotten, and made his next appointment, he was trying his damndest to make a break from the carrier.
Before I got him home he had just about bit through the wire mesh. He was a little tuckered after all that, and didn’t perk up for a while, but was last seen moseying around the first floor, scratching various posts. The breath reading I got earlier ran about 24, which is normal. He is full of drugs, and will be taking them on a new schedule. Haven’t seen him eat yet, but he’s probably sneaking it when I’m not looking.
I kind of get how he feels. I’m still shaking off the effects of that apocalyptic dog fart.