It was a boiling hot afternoon when we took the hamster to the vets … just to make sure that his growths weren’t causing him any pain.
The small waiting room was full… but I saw a six inch gap between two people and decided that with a little bit of friendly persuasion… I could get my size 14 hips into the space.
However to get to the said space… I first had to negotiate my way over a dog that thought it was the Welcome mat…. his owner obviously was of the same opinion, as he didn’t bother to get Fido to move… so I gingerly stepped over him.
I started to lower myself into my place… but hesitated when another dog looked up at me with eyes that said, …”I dare you!”
“Does it bite?” I asked his owner with a nervous laugh…(I had the nervous laugh not the owner)
“He might!” Came his swift reply.
'Well why the hell hasn’t he got a muzzle on,' I thought, but said nothing… and keeping my eyes fixed on the dog…ready to leap up at the first sign of a curled lip…squeezed into the gap.
Gordon meanwhile had made his way over to the reception desk to register.
Now we’d had a long discussions on what name to give the hamster. Gordon had suggested 'Roadrunner'…as he’d found it on the road...and I’d suggested 'Godfather' because when the hamster’s cheeks are full of food… he reminds me of Marlon Brandon, in The Godfather.
So you can imagine my dismay when on being asked the hamster’s name…Gordon said,.."Hammy."
After a few minutes two young women in their late teens... came into the over flowing waiting room…one of them… a pretty pert thing…with long flowing blonde hair and a sparkling smile…wearing a skirt so short that it could have been mistaken for her father's handkerchief around her hips. The other... a rather grim looking girl with a caste in one eye…and many body piercings… was carrying a rat in a plastic box...she was wearing her father’s handkerchief… tied pirate fashion over her cropped hair…
It was getting hotter and hotter and time passed slowly as various animals went… albeit unwillingly…in to see the vet.
Fido was moved from the waiting room door... and plonked himself down to become the new Welcome mat outside the surgery door…. so now everyone had to walk over him yet again!
The two young women disappeared outside to smoke a cigarette... and then returned to sit opposite me on the sunny side of the waiting room.
I looked down at 'Hammy' in his cage and saw that due to the heat he’d come out of his little house... and was flaked out beside it… even though we now had a cool breeze from the widow.
I looked across the room at the rat in its plastic greenhouse…the sun was shinning right into it… and it was obviously distressed…the tough looking young woman in the pirates costume...had her hand in the box stroking the creature which kept dragging itself around its sauna…raising itself up every so often and gasping.
I wondered what I should do as the young woman’s appearance left me in little doubt… that one wrong word from me…and I would end up with a zip on my face!
I sat watching the rat and compared its breathing to Hammy’s…and noted how fast it was…in comparison to his…I found myself saying out loud...” That animal’s dying.”
Still I hesitated…fearful for my self… not knowing what to do for the best.
I sent up a prayer… and suddenly found myself leaving the safety of my seat…crossing the room... and sitting down beside the young woman. My shadow fell across the plastic cage… shielding the rat from the hot rays of the sun.
Without even thinking about it…I smiled and started talking to her about rats…the words came fast …unrehearsed."My daughter had had a pet rat called Domino," I heard myself saying…the young woman told me that hers was called Gizmo…and that it had a huge mammary growth…she obviously loved it …as she told me that it had a big cage at her home…. I spoke of my love for rats...on and on and on... the words just flowed between us. Finally I suggested that the young woman came to my side of the waiting room as it was cooler and I explained about the plastic magnifying the sun’s rays...and turning the plastic cage into a sauna.
I went back and sat beside Hammy’s cage…several minutes passed and I thought... 'Well... that fell on stony ground'…and then I heard the young woman say to her leggy friend...” I’m going to sit over there, it’s cooler.” and with that...she brought her rat...and sat down beside me.
The surgery was almost empty now…Fido the sleeping rug was next…thank God …I didn’t fancy stepping over him yet again…then it was our turn... and then Gizmo’s.
I asked the young woman if she would like to take our turn as Gizmo was really suffering now…and she said, “Okay.”…no thank you …no smile just, “ Okay.”
Fido came out faster than he went in…. and seeing that he had a leg on each corner I decided that he made a better dog, than a Welcome mat…. then Gizmo’s owner and her pretty friend… took our turn.
After only a few minutes the surgery door opened… and Gizmo’s owner and her friend came out... tears streaming down their little faces…a piece of cloth covered the body of Gizmo in her plastic cage.
As she came abreast of me I jumped up and taking Gizmo’s owner...by the shoulders… I looked into her flooded eyes…my own eyes filled with tears as I gently but firmly said...“You’ve done the right thing sweetheart…she’s not suffering now…there is no death… believe me.”
For an instant she dropped her head on my shoulder…and then quickly… taking hold of herself… said through her tears...” I hope you’re right!”
And like two broken dolls…they were gone.
We took Hammy in to see the vet and she said that his growths were not causing him any pain…so we bought him home.
I kept running the events of the afternoon through my mind…I had judged the two girls by their appearances…. the one pretty and smiling and open …the other tough and withdrawn.
Yet God... when asked… had given me the actions and words…to change my judgment…and offer friendship instead of fear…and I received the wonderful gift…if only for an instant…of that young woman resting her head on my shoulder.
And Gizmo. …well… she’s playing with Domino…in rat Heaven now...isn’t she.