There was a dog in the doctor’s office.
And I like dogs. I even let one live in my house and heart, rent free. But being that this was the first time in five years I had been to a primary care physician, I expected something a bit more sobering, more somber, more sterile.
It’s like when you’ve spent a considerable amount of time adhering to a strict diet and then reward yourself with a delicious treat – only to find that the caramel pecan bun you have been craving is hard, moldy and worm infested.
In no way am I confirming that this dog had parasites. I mean, it appeared healthy. But, I’m certainly thinking it. As a matter of fact, I can’t stop thinking it. I also can’t stop thinking of the circumstances that landed me in the doctor’s office with said dog.
With the exception of my brief stint in academia, I’ve worked at companies that publicly offer health insurance, but secretly look down on you when you take time to visit a doctor. Your boss inadvertently becomes the keeper of your medical history and dental records with every, “I have to get blood work done” or “This tooth is really bothering me, I’m going to go check it out” or “I’m having irregular periods, I need to go see my gynecologist.” And if that wasn’t awkward enough, you can always count on experiencing intense guilt associated with being out. I mean, God forbid you were to take a full day, so instead you subject yourself to driving all over town at ridiculous speeds, stressing out when the doctor is behind schedule and developing an eye twitch when the same boss that knows you are at an appointment sends you four urgent emails and calls you while your doctor is listening for a heart murmur.
So, to avoid all of that I resorted to going to Minute Clinics and Urgent Care Centers when I had anything from a case of the sniffles to a torn meniscus. At the very least they would give me a prescription for cherry Robitussin and at the very worst they would refer me to an orthopedic surgeon – all done on the evening or weekend of my choosing and far, far away from the purview of a boss.
However, for the first time in my career, I’m enjoying a certain level of autonomy. Having full control of my schedule and workload, I decided to do the “adult thing” and schedule a visit with the medical professional I had designated as my primary care physician. But…
There was a small dog in the doctor’s office.
Was this also a veterinarian’s office, I thought. Or perhaps this was a service dog of some kind and I was being judgmental and inconsiderate. The bewildered look on my face must have caught the attention of the physician’s assistant, because she felt compelled to clarify that the four-legged furry beast was the doctor’s dog. She tells me this while recording my weight, but I can’t break my gaze from the dog, as it is now sniffing in front of the closed door of an examination room. In one graceful head butt, the dog opened the door to reveal a patient sitting up on the exam table and the voice of the doctor letting out a stern, “No.” She suddenly appeared in the doorway to wag her finger at the dog and close the door once again.
I finally broke my gaze of the dog and found the face of a very young physician’s assistant. “She opens doors,” she said between giggles.
She led me to my private examination room, a path cushioned by colorful and fluffy Crate and Barrel carpet runners. I too line my apartment floors with runners – not for decoration, but so my dog won’t slide across the wood floors. Upon further inspection, however, these runners were on top of commercial carpet at which point I convinced myself they were hiding poop stains. As the physician’s assistant fitted me with the blood pressure cuff, I could feel my pulse racing and the warmth of the blood that had now rushed to my cheeks.
I searched my mind for a calming image of the ocean, but all that came to mind was the trash and seaweed at the dog beach in Key Biscayne. Because…
There was a small, white dog in the doctor’s office.
My blood pressure came in at 117 over 76 and the physician’s assistant was pleased. However, my normal pressure is on the low side, like really low. So, this meant I was having a heart attack. Normally, I would’ve been relieved that I was already in a doctor’s office if I was in fact having symptoms of cardiac arrest, but, as I mentioned…
There was a small, white dog of one of those conjoined breed names that end in Poo or Doodle in the God damn doctor’s office.
I held the center of my forehead with the tips of my fingers as the physician’s assistant drew blood.
“It won’t hurt,” she said.
“I’m not worried about it.” I replied.
Of course not. I was worried about other things. Like the whereabouts of the dog. I hadn’t seen it in a while and wondered if it was opening doors of storage closets and licking blood samples or marking his territory on urine samples. And, most of all, I began to worry about my own examination, because, as this was to be my first visit, I requested a full physical and, being a woman, that includes a pap smear. As if this exam doesn’t already have a host of unpleasantness associated with it – medieval instruments, a witness, an exam table that can’t properly accommodate you, excessive amounts of KY Jelly – now there’s a looming threat of a dog head-butting the door for her own amusement – and finding the gates of my amusement park wide open.
There was a dog in the doctor’s office.
And I didn’t have a single urgent email, nor one inappropriately-timed phone call to save me from this horrible experience.