And A Little Pug Shall Lead Him

Published 1:58 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

On all fours in sodden grass, bending low to look up between a small dog's legs, pelted by bone-chilling rain as I helped collect urine in a small paper cup, was not how I imagined spending the morning of Christmas Eve.

But life is a journey where there may not be room at the inn, even with a reservation.

Christmas Eve is my favorite day and my plans had been set for weeks. I had looked forward to just the right book, a warm Pug on my lap, and a hot cup of tea in my hand to start the day.

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The perfect CD of Christmas carols performed on classical guitar had been picked out and the day was only going to get better after that, the anticipation of Christmas Eve dinner and a candle-lit church service afterwards lifting my spirits heavenward.

Instead, I found myself on the road with Pugsley to an emergency vet at 7:30 a.m., a 30-mile drive through rain and, yes, sleet, to address what I hoped would prove nothing worse than a urinary tract infection.

A warm cup of urine rather than a hot cup of tea was the order of this Christmas Eve morning.

Pugsley seemed no worse for wear but the blood in his urine late Sunday afternoon had scared me, the vet advising me to bring our Pug for treatment the following morning, Christmas Eve.

There we were, as I steered into the saturated grayness, Pugsley sitting or standing in my lap, sometimes activating the power windows with his paws, letting the rain and occasional sleet inside, a one-horse open sleigh effect as the rain whipped against my face.

So much for my best-laid plans of a morning's serenity and smiling at something written by P. G. Wodehouse. I actually began to envy my wife's having to go into work.

But, like an ill-tempered golfer teeing off, I drove on into the rough.

A small fishtail swerve on the final approach and we were there.

Soon, because checking for a urinary tract infection requires urine, I was outside with Pugsley, me and one of the technicians hoping to collect enough of his urine in a paper cup to enable analysis. Collect Pugsley's urine, not the technician's.

The paper cup was held in place at the end of a long piece of thin metal-a kind of divining rod-wielded by the technician, me on all fours in the sodden grass, leash in hand, trying to encourage Pugsley and direct the technician to the flowing stream.

Had there been any passers-by they would have wondered what strange religious rite was being observed.

We performed this ritual twice in the polar rain before finally getting enough urine to analyze, but I assured Pugsley that such attention to his process of elimination did not signify his face would soon be carved next to Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.

We were not, I had explained to him, in search of the Holy Grail, just urine for the paper cup.

The knees of my blue jeans, meanwhile, seemed to absorb all the freezing rain in Virginia, the frigid precipitation spreading across my denim-covered legs even as I sat with Pugsley in the waiting room.

No, this was not the Christmas Eve morning of my dreams. The day-off had emphatically become a day very much “on.”

The comfortable chair at home was empty.

The stereo was playing a silent morning rather than a six-string version of “Silent Night.”

No hot breakfast-a cold processed meat sandwich, instead.

No hot cup of steaming tea.

No warm affectionate dog on my lap.

Wet and cold at the emergency vet, instead, nervously awaiting urine analysis instead of turning a page from Jeeves And The Yuletide Spirit with a smile on my face.

Yes, the veterinarian confirmed, Pugsley did have what appeared to be a standard urinary tract infection. What a relief it was nothing worse than that.

When the vet said we'd go home with an antibiotic and pain pills I nearly replied that, as thoughtful as the gesture was, my wet and freezing knees required no pain pills. Thankfully, I realized in time to save myself from massive embarrassment that they were, like the antibiotic, for Pugsley.

And so homeward for the comfortable chair, for the wonderful book, the steaming hot tea and the caroling guitar strums. For those pleasures, I would have to wait for the rainy drive home to end.

But for the warm dog on my lap there would be no waiting at all. Pugsley curled up in between my lap and the steering wheel, laid his head in the crook of my right arm, and soon fell happily asleep.

As I relaxed with the knowledge Pugsley would be okay, his warmth traveled through me further than the freezing rain and soon, the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas playing quietly in the car's CD player, I understood I'd be given one of my favorite Christmas Eve memories ever.

Sometimes, room at the inn isn't necessary and the journey is all that matters.