Friday, June 08, 2007

Enforced Secret Joyful Memory Number 1 – Ernie and Bert at the Vet’s Office

Yes, I’m changing the rules once again. It’s not that I’ve run out of Joys to document, but this week, one memory keeps bumping the front of my skull over and over again. And it’s not the type of memory one would consider joyful, but then again, do I ever do anything the right way? No I don’t. I do not.

So here we go, Fridays will now be either Enforced Secret Joy Days, or Enforced Secret Joyful Memory Days. Ahem.

If you’re looking for a Grand Prize Winner in Ultimate Stupidity, you really can’t do better than a purebred cocker spaniel from Alabama. Of which I had two (technically, I had three, but the first one was not purebred, and was much much smarter than the other two that came after her, and when I say smart, I mean she learned how to stick her snout into a long green plastic cup to get at the chocolate milkshake inside.)

I named our purebred cocker spaniels, and I named them Ernie and Bert, because I could, and because they were girls, and I am contrary like that. Their middle names were Gus and Jaq, after the Can-Do mice from Cinderella. Since they were purebred, they had official paperwork for some national cocker spaniel registry somewhere, and my Mother The Phone Harpy Who I Love Very Very Much extended their names to Bernadette Jacqueline and Ernestine Gustina, to make everything nice and proper. This made them seem like debutante dogs, (three years later, they were tapped for my hometown’s Doggie Ball, the canine debutante party benefiting the Humane Society) and while visions of gently loping golden brown puppies wearing white leather gloves and batting eyelashes over Victorian fans may have been appropriate for such weighty feminine names, the reality is they were Ernie and Bert, and they were gloriously stupid inbred messes, and I loved every bit of them.

My father, the Great Stoic Wonder, maintains to this day that Bert was not stupid, even though she was the runt of the litter, and not even our first choice. Our first choice after Ernie was spirited away the night before we came to get them by “Satan worshippers needing animal sacrifices” the owner breathlessly asserted us. The owner had an electronic organ playing hymns in the background of her answering machine message. I love the South.

If you ask my Dad, Bert was not stupid, just intensely curious about everything, even things she had examined not more than three seconds ago (the backyard, that squirrel, that other dog who they SAY is my sister.) Ernie, on the other hand, was terrified of everything, which we chalked up to a baby gate falling on her during her first year of living with us. Ernie couldn’t stand to be alone, and Bert couldn’t care less.

But because both were purebred, both had major medical issues for most of their life. Bert’s thing was vertebrae. They slipped, they fused, they did things they weren’t supposed to do, resulting in major surgery where Bert got out the other side sporting what the vet pronounced as a “Tiffany neck in a Wal-Mart body.”

Ernie’s thing was cysts. The older she got, the more they cropped up. External, internal, where ever. Mom and Dad never seemed to notice, since they were with them 24/7. But I’d come home from college, bestow tummy rubs on Ernie, and immediately shriek that I had found a tumor, a TUMOR, what’s wrong with you people, can’t you feel this marble just below her ribs, why aren’t you taking care of these dogs! So we’d trip off to the vet, and the vet would say it’s a cyst, go home you freaked out family with the ineptly named dogs.

It was during one of these examinations that my Joyful Memory happens. Ernie was on the table again, the vet was patiently explaining again that it’s a cyst, don’t worry about it, “You only worry when you can’t move it around.” We had taken Bert with us, nothing was wrong with her (that day), but these dogs were rarely apart, though I suspected Bert wouldn’t have batted an eye if we had taken Ernie to Disneyworld and dropped her in the backyard complete with Mouseketeer Ears and a Donald Duck T-Shirt saying I Went Someplace You Didn’t Go SUCKA!

After observing Ernie on the table and surmising that things were relatively okay (weird, but okay), Bert decided she was going to hunker down in the open doorway, facing the rest of the vet office. She looked very regal, her front paws stretched in front of her, head NOT down on paws, but alert and up, silently approving the presence of everyone who walked by her.

And the minions came. Oh yes, the minions came. Everyone at the vet office knew who Ernie and Bert were, they were the ineptly named cocker spaniels who showed up every three weeks because something else was going wrong. And every nurse, every orderly (or whatever you call random office P.A.s in a vet), every other doctor that walked by stopped and dropped to their knees in front of Bert The Majestic, offering up ear rubs galore, “Hey Bert! What’s going on? Whatcha doing here today?” Then they’d look past her, and see Ernie on the table, “Oh, it’s Ernie, huh?” And Bert would accept the ear rubs with a knowing nod, yes, it is NOT me today! It’s the other one! You may pass and go on about your day.

It’s such a bizarre memory. Ernie on the table, Vet moving her marble cyst around and around “See? It’s not on a stalk! You’d be in trouble if it was on a stalk!”, Bert in the doorway accepting tribute from the vet staff. And yet it makes me smile every time I think of it. So it’s a joyful memory to me. And I christen it so now.

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