July 14, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 28
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Saturday, Dec 05, 2020



Not Thinking Straight by Madelyn Arnold
Defending others
Sometime in 1989, it seemed to me that my dog Alice was under the weather, so I took her to the veterinarian that had treated her since she was a pup. The vet assured me that she wasn't at death's door, but on the other hand, he wanted to observe her overnight. I figured she had to be at least a little sick.

But it was hard for me. She had never been left alone... she will be fine, they reassured me. They took good care of the animals.


When Alice had first visited this particular vet, it was wonderful to see how the office loved her. While I didn't seem to see eye to eye with some of the staff, I figured it wasn't unusual for "animal people" to like animals better than their owners. Surely they'd be good to a little dog. That was their trade.

That night at home, I found it difficult to concentrate. I missed my dog. I thought a drink might help my Separation Anxiety, but actually, the more I drank, the worse it got.

In my altered thinking, I thought I could sleep if reassured my dog were all right. I called the clinic, and naturally reached an answering service. I explained that I didn't want to bother a vet, I simply wanted an update on my dog. I wanted to be connected to the clinic, to whoever was on Night Shift. How was Alice?

The operator wasn't sure about this request; eventually she said she

couldn't connect me.... But. Please call back in 15 minutes.

I did.


I reached a new operator, explained myself, and this one said she was only authorized to contact the vets, and then only when the situation was serious. I explained I didn't WANT a vet, I only wanted to talk to whatever night staff might be at the office. I was told to call back.

During several more tries I got several different answers, and suddenly I found myself talking to an extremely irritated man who identified himself as the head vet. That I had just taken him away from his family, his supper, and a good fire, on a miserable rainy night after a hard day's work. I stammered that I had not wanted to bother him, but he would not listen. He swore that he was coming down to Seattle to release my dog at 11 o'clock at night, and both of us be damned.


It seems there was no night technician. No one was "observing" my little dog.

I was in no shape to drive over to the office, so I sheepishly roused some friends to take me to get my dog. The vet came tearing out with my sweet Alice on a lead, and proceeded to tell me that his services were for the cream of the crop, for members of the AKC and police dogs injured in the line of duty, and that he had better things to do with his time than to deal with bastard dogs and - things - like me.

I had only wanted a report. Of course, there was no one to give one out. They had, very routinely, lied to me. Was he embarrassed to be caught out in a lie? He ought to have been.

Many of his customers had crossbred animals. It wasn't politically smart for him to admit he was a snob. Was he so angry that he wanted hurt me more than he wanted to protect himself? What was that anger about, that dislike about? Was it really only that he felt harassed?


My lover and I were not wealthy, but we had taken animals to his clinic over a long period of time. And making time payments, mulling over charges that were hard for us to manage. Maybe he was enraged at one too many services for small-change customers. I had noticed that many other patrons dressed better.

Then too, there are was another sort of coolness.... I guess it always comes back to this doesn't it? Did our Queerness infuriate him? Throughout my life this has been the most likely answer.

Maybe I was just seen as a drunk (a woman drunk, the worst kind) harassing a staff convinced there was no reason to have a technician at night. A bitch out to prove they were liars. Or a combination of things.

I could stop being critical; I could go back to not drinking - I had reason to think I was a less-than-attractive drunk. But I could no more stop being Gay than I could stop being white, or being female.

How hard it is to know that what we are might well affect the treatment of those we love....

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