Last week, Lucas and I had another 12-hour Purdue day. We left the house right at 6:30 in the morning and arrived home just after 6:30 in the evening. Such a long, exhausting day.
This schedule requires a balancing act that feels like juggling while riding a unicycle–neither of which I can do. We’re trying to balance our work schedules with Lukey’s and Emmett’s myriad appointments while not neglecting Cooper and Newt. We’re trying to balance our work schedules and our checkbook and our time and our attention–balancing all of that against the emotional drain of two dogs with cancer. Some days feel heavy, just exhausting and stressful.
Among those days, typically, are the Purdue days. They’re just. so. long.
For me, the worst part of the day starts around 3 pm. Lucas will be discharged “sometime” after 2:30. In all our visits, we’ve spanned the gamut. Emmett’s gotten out as early as 3:30 and as late as 6. Lucas has been in that 3-4 window most often, but the thing is, we drop him off at 9. So, from 9 until about 2:30, I try to keep myself busy: I get breakfast at Panera and browse for books at Barnes & Noble. Afterwards, I set up shop at Starbucks and attempt (though usually fail) to work until it’s time to head back to the animal hospital. I strive to get back before 3 so that, on the off chance he’s ready early, we can leave the second he’s finished.
I got back to Purdue just before three, and the anxiety set in. Watching the other families wait. And wait. And wait. And the hospital also serves as an emergency room, so folks rush in with a barely-breathing cat or an Irish wolfhound with bloat. Then they wait, too. And the air in that lobby is electric with anxiety and wild hope.
I had my book, but I couldn’t read. Once I get back there, it just becomes waiting. So, I watched. I saw so many moments, moments that encompass every human emotion, moments that demonstrate the depth of the bond we have with our animals.
An older woman and her middle-aged daughter, there for their first consult, received terrible news. The older woman rushed out of the lobby, clutching her tiny white fluff ball pup to her chest. She sat outside, stroking and petting and crying, nestling her face in the small dog’s neck, while her daughter dealt with the doctor, made the arrangements, paid the bill.
An instant later, a retriever, discharged from surgery, waddled over to two women who knelt down to hug him. Two massive bandages encircled the dog’s abdomen, and the tech who brought him out went over detailed instructions on when to change and clean the poor pup’s wounds. One woman simply snuggled the dog while the other stood rigid-straight, asked all the pertinent questions, got the product recommendations, took the notes.
Across from me, a couple I had been watching out of the corner of my eye, got up and went to the soda machine. I was shocked that they’d get a soda. These people were ripped. They were not light exercisers, but probably body builders. Both wore tank tops and shorts and had nary a millimeter of flab. When they got a Coke Zero, I laughed (in my head) because it just didn’t fit with their appearance. They sat down, shared the soda, passing it back and forth while jiggling their legs. They were halfway through the drink when an oncology resident burst into the lobby with their dog. They stood up, tense and solid. “I have the best news,” the doctor gushed. “She’s in total remission.” And the man, that solid, muscular, tank-topped man, dropped to his knees, wrapped his arm around the ancient, white-faced pup, and started to cry.
Another man, super tall and sort of the opposite of a body builder, walked a boxer around the periphery of the lobby. She, the boxer, wore a red T-shirt, and the man kept up a constant, low chatter with her the entire time he walked his laps.
So many more: two people asleep (a feat I could never accomplish in a public place), an elderly couple who waited with their sweet little Boston terrier for their other Boston who was in surgery, a Golden from–of all places–Bloomington who was at Purdue for their first oncology consult and who, coincidentally, recognized Lucas from sitting near him in the lobby of our local vet just last week.
So much love contained in each of these moments. So much love, so much heartache, so much hope and fear, all tangled together.
And, sure, a lot of it is harsh and desperate and scary–that seems to be the world we’re living in–but there couldn’t be the fear and heartache without the intensity of the love.
The love, that’s what creates these moments.