I didn't get nervous until the girl reached for Stella's leash. She completely locked her legs and gave me a terrified look I hadn't seen before. The one that said:
"Aren't you going to do something? I thought you were my friend."
I don't mind saying, it rattled me a little. I didn't blame her. Fifty percent of the times we've been in this room, Stella's woken up the next day with staples in her leg. Reluctantly, she gave up and went on for what would hopefully be her final x-ray. I meanwhile, stared a hole through that framed poster on the wall. You know the one. It's a long raggedy couch with nine golden retriever puppies sitting on it. Almost all of them are looking into the camera. Some variation of it is in every doctor's office. Had I been to see my own doctor, it would've been a row of babies sitting in goofy-ass flower pots with sunflowers on their heads. Same picture.
The longer I sat there the less cute they got. My eyes moved to a different wall where there was a poster of internal details of the canine skeleton. I tried to see the dog's kneecaps without getting up. I could hear Stella's surgeon talking to a woman in the next room about the exact same operation. The clock ticked on and I began to wonder if they were having trouble getting her to hold still, if they'd eventually come back to tell me she had to be sedated, or if the pins escaped without my knowing it. Finally, as I was deep off into the daymare of lost pins, bone fragments, and eight to twelve more weeks of recovery, the door opened. Her doctor entered the room and happily announced that her x-ray was perfect. It had taken a few minutes longer because it looked so good he'd shown it off to his other patient who was about to undergo the whole experience with her own big dog.
While we were talking, Stella was delivered (with treats) back into the exam room, a different look on her face this time. She laid down comfortably on the floor, totally relaxed. He said there wouldn't be any reason for us to return, unless we had a problem. Walk, play, live. No horse racing off-leash for four more weeks :)
We'll take it.
On the way out the door I made her sit on the scale one last time. Sixty one pounds, two ounces.
"We better get walking right now, Stella," I said.
You know that noise that's somewhere between a howl and a growl? I don't know if she knew she was free or what but she sang that tune all the way to the car. It was hilarious. Half an hour later, after four long months, we headed off around the block in the hot rain without an umbrella.
It was grand.