I’m not a doctor, but I can tell. Sometimes, the animal is already dead. Sometimes, they’re dying. I rush him to the back all the same, because I’m not a doctor. Maybe I’m wrong.
I wait up front with you.
You ask me: Will he be okay?
And I lie.
It feels like a lie.
I tell you I don’t know. I can’t tell. The doctor is working on him right now. I emphasize that last one because if the doctor is working on him, then maybe he really will be okay.
My job is to keep you calm until you fill out the required forms. My job is to listen so you can tell me all the things you think the doctor needs to know.
I help you clean the blood from your hands. Get you a cup of water.
Then the doctor buzzes up front, and you look at me when I call your name. It’s too soon. You know what the doctor’s going to say, but you ask me: Is he okay?
I put you in an exam room.
Then I wait.
For the sound of your heart breaking. Sometimes, it’s a barely audible gasp. Sometimes, it’s a wail loud enough to shake my heart.
Because I know what it feels like to be the one to ask: Will he be okay?
When I already know.
He’s not okay.