The parking lot should have been my first clue. Not content to just fill every spot, there are cars parked on the grassy verge next to the clinic, cars parked on the shoulder of the road in front of the clinic, and cars double parked in front of each other.
Going inside, it doesn’t get much better.
This is possibly the most crowded veterinary waiting room I’ve ever seen, and I’ve sat in Guelph’s waiting room more than a few times. Tula and I are crowded in next to a man with a tiny, sweater wearing Yorkie on his lap. Across from us sits a big, bully headed cross breed of some type or another. It’s probably one of those mystery blends that are being marketed as ‘rare’ – a Victorian Bulldog or some such thing. Whatever it is, it’s adorable, and it’s stressed out. A baby sits next to it in a stroller, and every so often, when the baby shrieks in excitement, the bully leans over and licks the baby on the shin, eyes shining with worry. Mom tells me that her Bully loves the baby more than she loves anyone else in the house, and it’s clear that she not exagerating in the least.
There’s an adolescent Doberman, looking like nothing so much as gazelle in dog form, all gawkiness until it moves, when it become fluid and graceful. An older European couple have matching black and white Shih Ttzu type dogs on their laps, and one more peeks out of the sweater of the girl sitting next to them. There’s a Great Dane by the door, a quietly watchful Border Collie sitting behind a potted plant, and a pair of madly twirling Pugs in the corner.
In the middle of all these dogs sits a woman with a single cat in a carrier. The cat is keeping just as quiet and just as still as it possibly can, and I am thinking to myself that I would not want to be the tech who has to try to take that cat out of the carrier.
Tula is anxious about all of this, but she behaves herself like a lady. Every so often, when another dog really worries her, she’ll reach up and pat one paw on my leg, staring at me with her liquid brown eyes. I ruffle her ears and tell her it’s all fine.
Most of the dogs are well behaved, especially given the stress and the crowding and the long, long wait times. We’d arrived at nine to check in for Tula’s spay, and had been waiting for forty minutes when the woman with the Puggle walked in. As soon as she came in the door, she began a litany of the same command – “Sit sit sit sit sit, you sit now, sit good boy, sit sit sit”. Not once did the dog do anything even remotely approaching a sit, but every once in a while, as he was leaping at her legs and twining the leash around ankles, she’d reach down and pet him, telling him he was a “good good boy, momma’s good boy”, so it’s possible he had been immaculately trained to act like a lunatic.
Every word she said to her dog was pronounced in a loud tone that was obviously meant to draw attention. She’d tell her dog to ‘sit sit sit’, and when he ignored her she’d look around the room, smiling proudly, waiting for us all to acknowledge the utter adorableness of her dog’s behaviour. The breeder sitting across from me had a gaggle of puppies in a crate at her foot, none of which had made a sound since we’d arrived. She and I looked at each other, shrugged, and rolled our eyes, which left me too distracted to notice that there was an empty seat next to me.
The Puggle Mommy sat down next to me, while her dog sprang repeatedly to the end of his flexi, lunging at every dog he could reach. She was alternating ‘sit sit sit’ with ‘good boy, momma’s boy’, and I tried to remember my New York/Toronto subway training – don’t make eye contact with the crazy people. Eventually, Puggle noticed that there was a foxy cream Frenchie standing right next to him, so he lunged at Tula and proceeded to ram his nose up her butt.
Tula, as I said, is a good girl, but her patience for boys is nonexistant, outside of those one or two times a year when she’s willing to pursue them like a liquored up Cougar at a team sports bar. The rest of the time, Tula would be quite happy to see boys all kept on some remote island where there are no boats, which is pretty much just what she told the Puggle. There were teeth and snarling ‘and get the hell away from me, you misbegotten wretch’ type insults flung in his general direction. Puggle, being not altogether stupid, immediately backed off, giving Tula a concilatory play bow and tail wiggle.
His mom, on the other hand, was laughing indulgently at the antics of her ‘good good boy’, and when Tula snarled at him she proclaimed (loudly), “Oh honey, she just thinks you’re too studly for her, with all your manliness, so leave that little girl be”. She then beamed at me, clearly waiting for me to agree with her. When I didn’t, she took a closer look at Tula and said ‘what kind of dog is that?’.
‘Oh, French Bulldog. I’ve never seen one before. Where did you get it?’
‘I bred her’.
‘Oh, do you breed them? I’m a breeder, too!’.
She was practically ready to explode with excitement, and happily shared with me that she had a litter at home (of course) of ten (naturally) “Pure Bred” Puggles. I was as polite as I could possibly be, but I couldn’t help asking “Aren’t puggles a cross between Beagles and Pugs?”. ‘No, no’ she protested – hers weren’t like that. Hers were all real purebred Puggles. I was just too tired to either fight about it or to try to educate, so I shrugged and went back to my magazine. Two minutes later, Puggle mom asked me ‘So is she spaded?’ (yes, really – she really said “spaded”, I swear to God).
‘No, she’s here today to be spayed’.
‘Oh, that’s too bad. Can you imagine what cute puppies they would have?’, as she indicated her dog, which was busy trying to strangle itself on the end of her flexi lead. I couldn’t help looking at her with an expression that I’m sure was three parts incredulity, and one part disgust. I pondered all the things I could say, and settled for just shrugging again, and going back to my magazine.
Tula and I finally got called to go in to the office and meet with the vet. When I left, Puggle lady was busy telling the European couple next to her that she still had puppies available for sale, for just “$200 for purebred ones”, and “wouldn’t Sheezoos crossed with Puggles be darling?”.
Her dog was peeing on the potted plant.