At the Pet Doctor Office – Neutral Turf for Pet Parents
The waiting room at the vet’s is the place pet-crazy people from all walks of life find common ground
The waiting room at the pet doctor is one of the few places where people of different backgrounds and beliefs seem to get along harmoniously. Pet parents’ love of animals provides a common bond missing in so many other areas of life these days.
Growing up in Southern California, where weird is normal (just ask anyone outside the state), I never really noticed the differences between other people in the veterinarian’s office. As a kid I was more interested in the different pets than their people.
But later, as an adult, when I lived in Nashville for a few years and felt a little out of my element socially, I discovered the menagerie of pet parents at the vet’s was just as fascinating as the pets.
When my cat Clarence was just a kitten and needed a checkup, a co-worker of mine recommended a local pet vet. As I walked into the waiting room with Clarence, it seemed the pet parents were right out of Central Casting.
There I was, a Californian living in Music City. I’m sure the locals thought I was just as weird as I thought they were. It sometimes seemed hard for a West Coast Yankee to really get to know born-and-bred Bible Belt Southerners beyond the surface hospitality they offered.
But at the vet’s office these distinctions didn’t matter so much. It was almost as fun to watch as the intergalactic bar scene in “Star Wars.”
In the waiting room, the dogs and cats sniffed warily at each other as their pet parents struck up small talk that quickly turned to concern about their four-legged friends, and what prompted the visit to the pet doctor. A kind of brotherhood seemed to take hold as all these different characters waited for the name of their pet to be called.
Like the pets they brought along, all these folks were anxious about their pets’ well-being and wary about what would happen next, yet they appreciated sympathy and a kind word. They didn’t care if the kind words came from someone they’d never associate with outside the vet’s office.
An old-fashioned Southern lady in coiffed hair and pearls talked with a tattooed, long-bearded biker type about their dogs’ favorite treats.
A few seats away a redheaded young woman in cutoffs who looked like a young Bonnie Raitt was discussing her orange tabby’s dental issues with a grey-haired Presbyterian elder who most likely hated rock ’n’ roll, but his tabby also needed a teeth-cleaning.
On the other side of the room, a pregnant mom wrangled her three kids and their furry companions, all different. Amazingly, the kids — elementary, middle school and high-school-age, I guessed — all seemed to get along as well as their pets, who introduced themselves to and sniffed down other pets, prompting even more interplay between the people.
The character I remember most of all from my visits was a large man with a big smile and a deep Southern accent who was probably called “Bubba” by his friends. Bubba’s most memorable feature was the chihuahua that rode around perched at the top of his bib overalls.
Bubba and his little dog – named Harlan, as I recall, maybe after Harlan Howard, the famous Nashville songwriter –- became the focal point of the waiting room when they arrived. I’m not sure Harlan was even a patient at the clinic. I think Bubba just liked stopping by to show him off and shoot the breeze with the staff and the people waiting to see the vet. He seemed so proud of Harlan, who serenely surveyed the scene with his head sticking out of the top of Bubba’s bibs.
It struck me how these people had little or nothing in common beyond their devotion to their animals. If religion or politics or social issues had come up just about anywhere else, they’d probably be getting into shouting matches.
But yelling at strangers wouldn’t really set a very good example for your pet, while you’re trying to keep him calm at the vet, now, would it?
But all those differences in race, religion, creed, lifestyle and socio-economic status seemed to have been checked at the waiting room door. The only thing that counted in the clinic was kindness.
Animals have a way of doing that for the people who love them.
Barry Alfonso has written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Pam Tillis and Olivia Newton-John, contributed articles to Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times and earned a Grammy Award for music journalism. He is currently active as a personal historian, freelance author and faithful servant to his cat Clarence.
Article: At the Pet Doctor’s Office – Neutral Turf for Pet Parents
Category: Pet Tales
Author: Barry Alfonso