“Humor me,” I said to Partner du Jour as I pulled a U-turn in the ambulance. I pulled up at an angle, blocking the breakdown lane and right lane of the four-lane road. I activated the primary strobes, grabbed a pair of gloves, and stepped out.
Fluffy lay with his head on the fog line; cold, stiff, and unquestionably dead. I’d seen his body three times now as we had passed this spot, lying there without a mark on him. I knew if I left it there he would be a red stain on the highway by lunchtime, and I just couldn’t do it.
I moved his body onto the grassy shoulder, then I placed a hand on his chest and said a brief silent prayer. For his soul, for his people, and in part for me.
Then it was back to work. Amazingly, PdJ didn’t think I was nuts.
(Of course ‘Fluffy’s name has been changed for the sake of patient confidentiality.)
I don’t know why, but my animals keep me grounded. My family is the most important thing in my life, but they understand that after a bad day I need my cats or my dog. My wife listens and is sympathetic, but I feel the need to make her understand things. My daughter is always good for an honest hug, but she’s too young to burden with the troubles of a paramedic. (And she always will be.)
Our animals, however, provide unconditional therapy. Each of the cats has a different personality, yet all will allow me a large hug when I need one. Noah and Sebby are big lovable fluff-balls, Chang will sit on my shoulders, Clarabel actually wags her tail like a dog, and a well-timed rub from the feral adolescent Hal can bring me to tears.
And then there’s the dog. Cricket is normally a frantic bundle of beagle/terrier energy, yet when I’m having a bad day she will sit at my feet, lean on my legs, and soak it all in. This post came to me tonight as she sat there, letting me scratch between her ears, calming my soul. Eighteen months ago she was a scared stray, homeless and unwanted.
All of our cats were equally unvalued; three were born in the wild, one was rescued from abuse, and one was sick and given up for adoption after 12 years with her previous owner.
Medicine can wear on you. My family thinks my obsession with the animals is some type of transference; that I place an extra importance on them because of all the things I witness which are out of my control. All I know is they help keep me sane. They ask little of us, yet give unconditionally. Some days they even know I need a little ‘therapy’ before I do.
You may think I’m already around the bend, but I’d wager my readers with pets know exactly what I mean. Go on, go give them a hug for me.