You Could Die

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My dog escaped the yard last week. He’s a Corgi and he doesn’t like to be cooped up, alone. If there’s a dog in the neighborhood, he has to meet it.

A kind woman down the block discovered him and held on to him for a couple of hours. She’d contacted the cell-phone number on the tag. It was my wife’s phone who was, at the time, out of cell range on a camping trip. The kind lady finally took my dog down to the animal shelter here in town.

I discovered the details the next morning and headed down to the animal shelter. This was the first time that my Corgi had managed to get put in doggie jail. I didn’t expect an ordeal. I’ve had dogs go missing before. Some sort of fine would be assessed and I’d be on my way.

It was not to be. The animal shelter believes that our biggest problem here in Austin is animal sex. Animals are going to have it and you don’t want them to have any kids. They’re irresponsible parents. So, to entice you to have your dog neutered or spayed, they set an exorbitant bail. In this case it was $160.00. "Unless, Mr. Fisk, you decide that you’ll get your dog neutered, then the price is $50.00."

My wife and I talked it over and decided that we’d go ahead and save the hundred bucks. Our own vet would charge more than double that price.

The paper I was asked to sign, included a waiver of any rights to hold the vet performing the surgery liable should something go awry. "Why is this necessary," I asked. The bureaucrat behind the desk explained that this was just standard procedure and that they wouldn’t release the dog otherwise. I swallowed hard and signed. I’ve agreed to liability waivers before, but this felt like extortion. That’s what all government interaction feels like to me lately.

At the courthouse you will find the same sort of extortion occurring. The authorities are like car salesmen. They first knock you in the head with a very scary sounding fine or legal charge and then offer you something cheaper if you’ll cooperate. "Just sign here and see the clerk on your way out. That wasn’t so bad now was it?" Never mind that last part. I was reminded of my dentist. The bureaucrat doesn’t care what you think.

A supplementary document I was required to initial explained that the veterinary facility, where my dog would have his surgery, was strict about time. My appointment was on the following Monday and the flyer explained that I would be charged a significant amount of money for every minute that passed, should I arrive late. The shelter would drop him off at the vet and I would have to arrive at 5:00 PM sharp.

On Monday, I got a call from the vet. I mentioned the fee and they said not to worry since there was a thirty-minute grace period. "We don’t start charging until five-thirty."

Well that was a relief. After work, I headed to the shelter. I gave myself plenty of time and followed the map they provided. This wasn’t the first mistake I’d made. The whole ordeal was a series of ill-chosen actions on my part. Trusting bureaucrats to provide a decent map was the least of these. The map actually put me two miles north of my destination during rush hour. I did finally discover its location and I arrived at 5:29 PM, just barely in time to sign in.

Being in a hurry, I walked straight to the counter without paying much attention to my surroundings. The first thing I observed, after breathing a sigh of relief, was that I hadn’t come to a private business as I had imagined. It was a non-profit organization which contracted with the city. The furniture was period yard-sale. Every seat was occupied by "customers" who had either come to take advantage of the low price (this outfit advertises subsidized prices for spaying and neutering around town) or had been suckered like I had.

The walls were covered with propaganda peddling a variety of medications. In every case, the ads warned how your pet could die if you didn’t purchase it right now. It all seemed familiar. My son tries this same tactic. He’s about 10 months old and makes it clear to everyone within view that if he doesn’t get what he wants immediately, he could die. He can’t talk, but the ear-splitting scream coupled with distinct body language conveys the point perfectly. The wall u2018O drugs and fear was almost as annoying as one of my son’s tantrums.

I hadn’t noticed it when I came in but some joker had super-glued a quarter to one of the few still-intact linoleum tiles. As I waited, I made bets with myself as to whether or not the next person who arrived would try to pick it up. At least this place was providing some entertainment.

In case you’re wondering, I discovered the joke for myself during a walk around the room reading the various drug advertisements and promotional material posted on the walls.

Speaking of walls, there were at least five distinct colors on the walls, apparently due to a financial decision on the part of the painting contractor to buy unclaimed or defective paint mixes without regard to how much area it will cover before having to open a new gallon of paint. Not the same color as the last gallon? No problem! Just pour it in the hopper and go!

Ninety minutes after I arrived, after having read every frightening heart-worm brochure, and having played with a cutaway model of a worm-infested heart, my name was called.

"Mr. Fisk? Can you come with me please? I need to show you something. Did you know that your dog had one testicle that wasn’t descended all the way?"

"Well, yeah, sure. I knew that, but it wasn’t considered a big deal by our vet."

By this time, we had turned a corner and there was our little u2018Finnian.’ He sported a compression bandage from the bottom of his rib cage to his hips and finally wrapping down around his legs. He looked like he’d been hit by a truck just minutes before. This was not the feisty little pet my daughters adored. He was grotesque and obviously fighting for his life.

My stomach began to turn and then my own testicles leapt upward into my body as my mind imagined for the briefest moment what I had allowed them to do. Instinctively, I was clenching my thighs together. My jaw clenched also as it was explained that his un-descended testicle provided them quite the challenge. After the surgery was completed, they noticed bruising which aroused concerns of excess bleeding and clotting.

"He’ll be okay; he’s just a little bit sensitive to the medication we gave him. That’s why he’s so lethargic right now."

Their biggest concern was getting him on his feet. I squelched the urge to beat the tattooed young woman who kept handing me the leash, pleading with me to just make him get up and shake off the drugs. Who in their right mind could look at the poor fellow and imagine he was in a condition to get up and walk?

"Are you people serious? I’m no veterinarian, so I won’t argue why he’s not feeling good, but I’m not going to ask him to get up and walk around. It’s quite obvious he doesn’t want to do that."

"Oh, he’ll be fine. We’ll just give him some more time."

"It’s already been an hour and a half since I arrived, how much more time do you think he needs? Look at him!"

I won’t detail the conversation I had with the surgeon (who left my poor dog in this condition hours earlier) and we’ll skip a description of the sanitary conditions of their operating rooms.

Suffice it to say, this was nothing more than a factory. No care could be provided in such a facility. It was clear that its operators were only interested in cranking out sterilizations. I had somehow slipped into a dimensional warp and had arrived in a socialist third-world nightmare. This was socialized "medicine" in all its glory. I expect that the condition of this country’s hospitals will devolve to the same level within a decade should national single-payer healthcare be enacted in this country.

The bureaucrats had an arrangement with a local vet in cases like mine and so we loaded up my poor dog and I drove across town to leave him in their care overnight. They would watch him and release him to me the next morning.

When I arrived I felt as if I’d just entered a different country. This country was one where a (relatively) free market and competition drive the decisions of business owners. The facility was spotless, the waiting room comfortable and the staff concerned with poor Finnian’s comfort.

He’s finally recovering. He never got used to the plastic head guard and thankfully, he no longer requires it. It proved to be more a device of torture than protection. Because he likes to explore every smell, walking him around the block was an excruciating affair. Every three feet or so, he’d dip his head down to get a closer sniff and would be jolted to a halt as the cone of torture would catch on the grass or sidewalk. I don’t think he’s the smartest dog I’ve ever owned because he insisted on repeating the experience often.

Then again, his owner hasn’t proven to be that intelligent either. I won’t be making that mistake again. There’ll be no more government-managed health care for my family. I wouldn’t wish that on my dog and certainly not my own family. You could die.

Rick Fisk [send him mail] is a 45-year-old software developer and entrepreneur. He is married, has 3 children and resides in Austin, TX.

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