None of the antibiotics or drops or ointments touched Molly's ear problem this time. Emy, the vet who has been treating her had asked around and found a friend in Plerin, a quite posh satellite of StBrieuc, whom she knew as an excellent animals' orthopaedic surgeon, would do the ear canal op. She recommended the woman's personal qualities highly.
The quickest way to Plerin is by the Route National, which in that particular area at that time I shirk from taking on, even when not worrying about Mol and the vet, so we all went.
The clinic was very small and modest but the atmosphere friendly. A large fluffy grey cat sat on the mat (really!), and regarded us with equanimity. It turned out he had only three paws; he was found as a stray and an accident victim, Claire, the vet, patiently fixed him up, saving one of his mangled paws but unable to rescue the other, and kept him. She was someone we immediately took to, tiny, neat grey hair, smiley, openly warm, I told her the cat looked very well. "Fat, you mean. I have three cats, they are all fat." Trembling and unhappy as she was, Molly offered to give her a kiss as she bent over her. One of the miseries of this persistent trouble, and the accompanying painful pokings and peerings into her ears, has been that she has grown a fear of the vet she didn't have before. She never liked them, of course, but was characterisitically hopeful of an upside, and fairly stoical. Now she anticipates pain and cries even before it comes.
Claire ended up calling in her colleague, and knocking Mol right out to do a thorough exploratory. We left biting our lips to kill time for an hour and a half. We sat in bar and drank two cups of hot chocolate, and the young barman was a real tonic, just a sunny and charming chap who seemed to animate the whole place. We watched a funeral (cheery! but they are a major aspect of French life, I don't remember being half so aware of funerals in the UK, perhaps because they often take place at a remove, in crematoria. Here town centres are regularly commandeered for the event), then we went and bought radishes and onions from possibly the most beautiful fruit and veg shop I've ever seen, where steel tubes around the walls intermittently puffed out dry ice to keep the produce conditioned, and you could buy little jars of different coloured sugar, including pink for barbe a papa, candy floss.
When we returned, we were greeted by a solemn but friendly moonfaced French bulldog. He followed us into the surgery. "Don't worry, he's mine," said Claire " that's Monsieur Socrates."
" It suits him." I said.
" Oh yes. He is very philosophical."
It seems to me a good sign that resident animals are so happy to hang around, dogs and cats together, in a place that smells so, well, vetty, and possibly they might exert a calming influence. However, poor Mol was beyond being calmed by them. She was coming round when we took her back, and came to howling and unreachable. In the car on my lap on the way home she quietened, but was continually straining as if to get up on her feet, while her head lolled and she shivered and twitched. Once she was home though, she seemed to become properly conscious at last, and staggered round and round in drunken circles, occasionally getting stuck in corners that she had to be extracted from like a clockwork toy. But she didn't stop wagging her tail. It seemed as though she had to check every room, every item, even her box of toys, which these days she rarely bothers with, reorienting herself and pleased to find it all still there. Tom and I knelt on the floor, initially to be down at her level, but looked at each other then clung together weeping, until Molly had to be extricated from between two dining chairs.
And that was just the preliminary. There's no alternative but to take her back to have the the entire ear canal removed. It's the more drastic but simpler and safer of two surgical alternatives, and the most effective for the problem. Her ear drum will still work. When she wants it to. She'll have to be in all day on Friday. I hate to think of her coming round like she was yesterday and our not being there, but we can't collect her until the evening. The weekend will be spent with a traumatised dog with a bucket on her head and a drain in. The drain can, it's hoped, come out on the Monday, but the bucket will be on for a couple of weeks. She have to have a lot of painkillers and antibiotics.
I can fully understand why children who have to have a lot of treatment and operations when small become spoilt tyrants and cry-babies. I can't find a cross word for her, and have to resist the urge to give her anything and anything to make up to her. It troubles and distresses me that she cannot possibly see any reason why I repeatedly take her to one place after another to people whose sole function, however nice they might come across, is to torture and frighten her, I hold her down while they do it, and she still clings to me and loves me. Animals can tolerate a low level of pain and discomfort far better than we can, as she has with the infection, without paying too much attention, because they don't have the capacity to worry about the possible implications, the future, death itself, which anxiety, with us, often makes the pain worse. On the other hand they cannot fortify themselves against the pain and shock of medical intervention, as we can, with the rational knowledge of why it's happening.
But this morning she is up and ready for breakfast, curled beside me here, looking forward to jumping on Tom to wake him up, and whatever else the day brings. Tomorrow is behind her, and she doesn't know about Friday. It's for us to torment ourselves with that. And of course for us too, there is the baleful spectre of that more than likely last visit to or from the vet, which she doesn't know about either. But that is a long way off, and not to be thought about. Cowards die a thousand deaths. She is blessed and brave, we are the cursed cowards.
Poetry in Penarth - perfect!
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