I don’t know when I lost my sentimentality.
With a thud the fish stops flopping up and down. It lays still on the floor of the boat. My camp counselor, a tanned college student, carefully places the paddle on the seat and cuts the fishing line. The hook remains dangling from the lifeless mouth.
He grabs the fish with his bare hand and throws it back into the water. He talks slightly above a whisper. I don’t know if his words are directed at me or into the air.
Couldn’t get the hook out of that one. He would have never survived.
My son and daughter sit on the curb in front of our house, stunned. The car pulls over as the dog’s owner sprints around the corner. She stops a few paces away and screams.
The animal’s chest heaves up and down slowly, but he is otherwise incapacitated. My daughter looks up at me quizzically?
Can we call an ambulance? Can we take him to the hospital?
I don’t respond at first. The owner is now leaning over her beloved pet. She strokes his head and whispers softly into his ear. She is crying.
No honey. The dog is dying. There’s nothing we can do.
My son instinctively grabs my daughter’s hand. They sit silently and watch as the dog’s respirations slow.
I feel a strong urge to cover their eyes and walk them into the house. But I don’t. I put my arms around my children and wait.
We all just wait.
So you’re putting 421 on hospice?
The nurse leans over my shoulder as I write orders. It’s been a long day and I don’t feel like talking. I’m starting to drift.
Sometimes I dream that all those fish are swimming after me. The hooks wag back and forth in their mouths as they pull IV poles behind them.
Her primary sent her here to get therapy. She’s due for another round of chemo next week.
The nurse persists even though my mind is clearly elsewhere. She’s starting to get on my nerves.
You know, most docs let the oncologist take care of this stuff.
Now I’m angry. I growl as I look up at her, but then think better of it. I turn my head back to the chart.
I mutter under my breath just loud enough to make sure she understands.
I wouldn’t treat a dog that way.
Jordan Grumet is an internal medicine physician who blogs at In My Humble Opinion.
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