A Veterinarian and Her Pet
A steadfast and loyal companion with amber-colored soulful eyes, occasionally prone to bouts of “irrational exuberance”: These words aptly describe my canine companion, Nala, my gift for surviving four grueling years of veterinary school.
As a newly graduated large animal veterinarian, I decided to get a puppy. After a year of waiting anxiously, I finally got the call that there was a beautiful female Rhodesian ridgeback puppy available. The woman said the puppy would make a wonderful companion because she wanted to be with someone constantly and I planned to take my dog to work. My fiancé and I picked up the puppy, and she bravely sat on my lap for the ride home, only whimpering once.
Nala started her life with me as a pampered pooch. We were inseparable. She was my canine co-pilot, riding alongside me in the veterinary truck as we drove around the countryside performing farm calls. In the morning, if I didn’t stir early enough, she would hop around the end of the bed, barking and biting at my feet to wake me so I would feed her. At night, she would sit on the couch beside me, and we would watch TV together. When I received an emergency call, Nala was always ready to go out on an adventure, no matter the time of day or night.
Nala also loved to go on walks and tried to chase squirrels and deer at every opportunity. Her favorite animal to chase was my fiancé’s cat, Frank. Nala would merrily chase him around the room, knocking things over until Frank finally found a high perch. He would wisely peer down at her from his superior position, calmly licking his front paws and flicking his orange-and-white tail to tempt her.
A few years later came Nala’s first litter of eight bright-eyed, healthy, active puppies. Nala adjusted readily to her new brood and became a very gentle, attentive mother. However, she often looked horrified at night, hanging her head and ears down, when she had to stay with them in the whelping box instead of sleeping in the living room. Seeing an opportunity, Frank began a new routine and enjoyed sleeping on her bed.
When the puppies were old enough, most went to new homes. We kept one of them, which we named Peanut. Nala enjoyed her new buddy and happily regained rule of the household and her bed.
When my husband and I brought our first baby home from the hospital, despite my trepidation, Nala immediately accepted this new addition; the transition was surprisingly seamless.
Nala is 11 years old now and has certainly changed from a rambunctious puppy to the grand dame of the house. As the years passed and we added another of Nala’s puppies, Belle, and another baby to our household, Nala gracefully adapted to each situation. She has even learned there are advantages, such as stealing food from unsuspecting toddlers! She waits patiently for the opportune moment, stalking the treasure with her eyes while quietly lying on the floor. When we are all distracted, she grabs the unattended food and runs away to devour it. Despite my best efforts, she has become so adept at this skill that she recently developed food allergies and now requires a special prescription diet.
I often wonder if Nala ever misses the old days when it was only the two of us. But seeing the affection with which Belle and Peanut greet her, I don’t think so. Her daughter, Belle, often licks her on the head while Peanut frequently greets her with a joyful bark and an invitation to play. At any time during the day when I look into the yard, the three of them are together, basking in the sunshine. While life may have been simpler without children, Nala and I have enjoyed a great life together that is even richer with our family!