Welcome to ‘I Hate My Dog’, a semi-regular series about the struggles of a first-time dog owner just trying his best for his new dog, Buttercup.
I hate going to the doctors. I hate checkups. I hate waiting rooms. I hate the stale smell, the daytime TV, the sun-bleached magazines from ten years ago. I hate the cost, the septuagenarians, and the feeling of inevitable, oncoming torment. And that’s before you get poked, prodded, squeezed, and injected.
But you know what? At least I can understand the doctors. At least I know why I’m here. At least I did it to myself.
My dog, Buttercup, does not share this advantage.
I Hate My Dog: Terror at the Yonkers Animal Hospital
A Free Consultation
For the uninitiated, Buttercup is a 2-year-old pitbull/bulldog/french bulldog mix that my wife and I adopted from the Yonkers Animal Shelter in Ridge Hill. Buttercup’s favorite pastime is hunting anything that moves, including birds, squirrels, and arrant acorns.
The Yonkers Animal Shelter is a no-kill shelter which means that dogs can be there for months or even years. Buttercup had been housed there for two months at the time of adoption and when we picked her up, they gave us all of her paperwork as well as the numbers of two vets in the area, one in Scarsdale, the other in Yonkers. These vets offered a free consultation and booster shots. The former offered the checkup within seven days of adoption, while the latter offered a free checkup within ten.
My wife and I opted for the Yonkers shelter, partially because I never checked a map and realized that the Scarsdale hospital was actually closer, and mostly because we wanted to spend as much quality time with Buttercup as possible before taking her to a scary place with needles.
I called the Yonkers Animal Hospital and made the earliest possible appointment, which, wouldn’t you know it, was on the last possible day for the free consultation. There was only one snag. My wife was working the night shift at her own hospital (one for humans) but still wanted to be there in-person, to comfort the shaking dog, and her equally shaking husband.
My wife got off work at 10:00, with our appointment set for 10:30 a.m., so now we have a plan! Get dog in car. Drive to human hospital. Pick up wife. Sprint to dog hospital. Get checkup. Go home and congratulate ourselves on our successful day out.
Would that it were so simple.
Setting Your Dog Up For Success
There is a popular phrase in the dog community. We want to “set our dogs up for success.” This applies to training, but also to the way the dog interacts with everything every day. This is a human’s world. She’s just living in it.
So, the morning of, I took Buttercup out for her six a.m. pees and poops. We had a nice walk and an easy start. My wife’s hospital is only twenty minutes away, so I wasn’t worried. Around 9:40, I got Buttercup’s things in order, including her folder with much of her information.
Buttercup and I walked to the car where I realized my first mistake. I had not set up Buttercup’s in-car hammock to prevent her from shedding all over the seats prior to bringing her outside. This isn’t a huge problem on the surface, except that it coincided with the annual ‘Every Squirrel In The Bronx Meet Outside Lukas’ Car’ convention. Buttercup’s previously mentioned only pastime kicked in and suddenly I was dealing with installing a hammock whilst trying to contain an overly-stimulated beast determined to get her jaws around a squirrel even if it meant getting run over by an oncoming minivan.
Ten minutes later, we were now behind the clock. Like many mice and men before me, my best-laid plans had gone awry. As I raced down the Bronx River Parkway, I realized that this was the first time I had ever been in the car with Buttercup alone. Without an extra set of eyes to guard her, I rolled down the window slightly and let her bask in the warm summer air.
We were having a grand time, speeding down the road towards Mommy’s work and Buttercup was experiencing sights, sounds, and smells she had never experienced before. We were the ideal; a man and his dog, off on another whirlwind adventure.
Unfortunately, there was another dog in the tri-state area, and upon the sight of him or her, Buttercup peed. Over everything. The leash. The hammock. Herself. Everything.
In my haste to get us in the car, away from the squirrels, and on the road, I had neglected to take her to a patch of grass where she could do her business. I had no one to blame but myself. I had failed to “set her up for success.”
I was thinking about this and trying with one hand to get her leash out of the yellow pool when the car in front of me came to a sudden stop. I slammed on the brakes, causing dog and seepage to fly forward into the back of my head.
By the time I got to my wife’s hospital, I was furious, smelly, and late. I shook out the hammock while Buttercup explored the local flowers on a very short and wet leash. I called the Yonkers Animal Hospital to inform them that my wife and I were coming from the hospital and we were going to be a little late and they told us that if we weren’t there in fifteen minutes, we were going to have to wait a short while.
Yonkers Animal Hospital
The Yonkers Animal Hospital most closely resembles a one-bedroom house that has been modified to stab pets. It is located snuggly behind a two-story residence and across the street from the Liberty Lines Transit Facility.
Up against the clock and unable to find parking, my wife ran inside to fill out the paperwork while I comforted the dog for the journey ahead.
While Buttercup loves to chase birds and balls, she is particularly invested in other dogs. We do not know her backstory and, being a dog, she is unable to fill us in. Suffice to say, if there is a dog present, it is impossible to get her attention. Whether out of fear or aggression, Buttercup will, without hesitation, completely Hulk the F out and strain at the leash. Only ushering her away from the animal in question can shake her from this Terminator-like intensity. Every dog book and instructional video I’ve watched recommends bringing a high-value treat to lure her attention, but I’ve tried yummy dog snacks, crispy bacon, and juicy turkey meat and I have yet to find a sufficient currency.
Buttercup is a sensitive dog with a keen sixth sense for any approaching animal. In my previous article, I mentioned that she had to be kept in her own cell, isolated from other dogs to prevent prison riots. She’s a tough cookie and will get low to the ground like a soldier under barbed wire if it means getting closer to her objective and from the word go, she was on edge, her hair heightened, her ears back, growling like an approaching storm.
I sat with her, pouring sweat in the 98° heat, with all the car doors and windows open in a weak-ass attempt to air out the piss, keeping her restrained as her biggest fear came and went. Old ladies with weiner dogs and cockapoos stopped to text, blissfully unaware that one car over, Buttercup was trying with all her might to get under their chassis and (possibly) kill their dog. There was nothing I could do. None of my tricks could be employed. I couldn’t take her on a walk, far away from the Vet. We had an appointment in minutes. Our 10:30 appointment came and went. We were asked, but really just told, to wait. We didn’t get to see the vet for over forty-five minutes.
And then my wife found out we didn’t have all the paperwork.
As I’ve said, and now remind, Buttercup is my first dog or pet of any kind that didn’t come in a bowl. It has been a tremendous learning opportunity, equal part joy, and stress. You thrill in their wagging tail and the way they prance around the apartment when they hear the word, “walk” but you also have to go outside before the sun has even risen for the previously mentioned pee and poop parade.
The main sacrifice that comes with owning a dog is not the considerable expense, but the time. To quote Tony Stark quoting Howard Stark in Avengers: Endgame, “no amount of money ever bought a second of time.”
I imagine having a dog is not unlike having a toddler. Time must be allocated for their interests, walks, playtime, bathroom breaks, etc. But also, things just take longer. You can’t just go outside. You must first get the bags, and the leash, and the harness, and the treats. You can’t just get in the car as I had learned in the wettest and stinkiest way. You have to take them on a short walk to get all those fluids out. Time is what we did not have but, in the words of Doctor Frank-N-Furter, “[we] will receive it in abundance.”
I carried Buttercup into the clinic and, as predicted, she lost her mind, suddenly surrounded by dogs of every shape and size. We rushed her through to the back room like Secret Service agents after an assassination attempt on the President. The Vet, who I will not name, but let’s call him Ratchet, looked over her file and said, “you don’t have her vaccination records?”
I had grabbed Buttercup’s folder, but not everything in her file, meaning we did not have a record of all of her shots.
My wife asked if we should drive home and get the paperwork but Dr. Ratchet, who simply couldn’t do anything without the records, told us we could contact the shelter and have the records faxed over. In the meantime, we’d have to momentarily step outside. So we walked out again, with much snarling and gnashing of teeth. My wife stayed to talk to the receptionist, and I took Buttercup outside to relax.
We had the forms within fifteen minutes. We sat outside the waiting room for two hours.
We waited “any minute now” to be called in. I realized that the eighty-year-old people in the waiting room had actually arrived in their mid-20s. This was our future now. Waiting for all eternity with no end in sight. Only instead of a wheezing old retriever, we had a pit bull in the prime of her life desperate to get out of there. At one point, Buttercup was so stressed, she slipped her harness and bolted as I chased her on foot down Saw Mill River Road.
After two long hours, we were finally called in. My will to live, like my phone, having long since died. At this point, my nerves were too frayed to care what others thought. I picked up Buttercup in my arms and marched her in. Barking didn’t matter anymore. Her nails clawing into my shoulder didn’t hurt. Pain, but one of the many feelings, now was but a distant memory.
Dr. Ratchet watched with dispassionate eyes as we put Buttercup down on the cold metal table. The walls were lined with pictures of dog anatomy which I hoped was meant to put us at ease, not a cheat sheet for the doctor. “See? This guy has pictures of a dog’s insides. He clearly knows what he’s doing!”
Buttercup didn’t trust him and, sensing my weakness, attacked. We held her at bay. For all her lethal intent, she is still a 30 pound dwarf of a dog. We muzzled her, which enraged her. She was curled, tail between legs, eyes darting, teeth bared, while an assistant told us how best to do his job.
Dr. Ratchet took her rectal temperature, and gave her multiple injections, while my wife and I tried to reason with our now-deranged little girl. Bing. Bang. Boom. One shot after the next, and then, “That’s it. She’s a beautiful dog. Have a nice day.”
Before we could even ask a single follow-up question, we were ushered out and slapped with a bill for our “free consultation.”
It is important to (say it with me now) “set your dog up for success.”
Your dog’s failures are not your dog’s. They are yours. You must remember that we are asking dogs to act against instinct, without understanding, in exchange for free room and board.
As frustrating as it is, they do not understand when you grab them by the collar, look them in the eye, and say, “calm down for the love of God!” They do not understand that as much as they might want to lunge at another animal with every fiber of their being, that acting upon such behavior will get them put to eternal sleep. It is not Buttercup’s responsibility not to chomp on Rosco or Fifi. It is my duty to train her not to jump in the first place. Every experience is a learning opportunity.
So what did I learn from this?
Well, for one thing, when we go to the vet now, I bring every paper in her file so as not to forget anything. I’d bring the entire filing cabinet but my wife says that’s overkill. I learned that everything with your dog takes twice as long as you’d think. I’ve learned that I’m still learning and that my frustration doesn’t lie with her but with my inability to deal with a crisis. I’ve learned that vets don’t come with an innate love of animals, nor a calming, comforting demeanor. Some vets just do the work and don’t care about what goes on outside their cold room with framed pictures of animal innards.
But my biggest takeaway is that I will never subject my dog to this ever again.
We will never return to the Yonkers Animal Hospital.