The Hound and the Mistress Sound, Jan ’20

The veterinarian, Dr. March, grabbed the dog’s long-haired ears and pulled them out to either side. So doing, he and the poor creature looked briefly like twinned ice dancers. But the enthusiasm was plainly lacking in the dog’s face; his anxious stomach saggier and hanging low to the ground, his ragged breaths which might normally be warranted following vigorous play coming now unprompted by exertion, and this all too much for poor Mallory. Comet (an anglicizing corruption of Comes {classicist ex-boyfriend, hipsterite sense of punning undaunted}) was an energetic and whimsical dog, smacked down by God, genetics, and upbringing right in the middle of the distribution of temperament for his breed, and his presence had pleasingly come to swallow the rest of Mallory’s world. But yesterday of a sudden he grew lethargic and spent all the day hiding his beaming mouth in cushion crooks and blanket folds. Despite the late hour at which she discovered his malodor, and cursing her unfailing inadequacies, Mallory tapped urgently over to her “Favorite Contacts” screen, and with little further fuss was able to set the appointment for the present morning. Now it all hung in the waiting. 

The vet let drop Comet’s ears and turned to his owner. “Not bad so far,” he opened. Anxious to get to the 11:00am with the unhappy horse (equestrians, now as in days of yore, paid handsomely), he threw Mallory, as it were, a bone. 

Hands before him, like a supplicant, and youthfully maintained cheekbones high, he asked, “Is there a chance he got into anything he maybe shouldn’t have?” 

Mallory slumped in doubt. Doctors were supposed to do this – as representatives on Earth of truly divine matters, their duties in less dire cases were circumscribed to excuse-writing, to letting escape some pressure from the overheated mind of a new caretaker, for whom, as for most of us, the quotidian task of keeping the profane multitude of unsuitable objects away from her charge’s ears, eyes, nose, and specially mouth, was merely insurmountable, and goofs were endemic expectations, if not in fact necessary occurrences. Where the dread powers of medicine could profitably intervene, they did, and where, as was almost everywhere the case, the thing would resolve itself, a doctor was present to give the poor mother, suffering nearly so much as the ailing, a little breathing room. Like advertising, his object was to reassure her of the validity of three little words: “You are okay.”

Twisting, she said, “I suppose it’s entirely likely that he did, yes. But what could cause this exact kind of distress?” She pointed to the quavering pup’s belly and looked towards Dr. March again. “The better question is what wouldn’t cause this!” rejoindered he, smug in a surfeit of asymmetrical information. “You know how it is, Mallory – nuts, fruits, bark, deodorant, chocolate, alien feces or even just a bad day. They’re not robots, no more so than we are. They’re gonna get sick every now and then,” he said, and took a second to watch the clock above her head. 

Freeingly defeated now, Mallory sighed and readied herself to go. “Thank you, doctor, and of course, you’re right. I just get so worried when I see him like this. All I want is a healthy and happy dog,” she said. 

“As do we all,” March finished, Napoleonic now, a commander on horseback at the Pratzen Heights. Mischief twinkled too swiftly at the back of his throat, and before he knew it, his voice threw one last shot: “But you know, I’m curious – if you had to pick one, which would it be?”

A novelty. Mallory, mid-gathering, twitched an ear and asked again, “Pick one?”

“Sure! Happy or healthy, pick one.”

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