"These have got to come off," the vet said pointing to Eric's toes. The upper toe on the back foot, the one that doesn't touch ground (does it have a name?) wasn't like it's typically supposed to be. It wasn't attached to anything and sort of hung there like a bit of mud caught in fur. When asked why it needed to come off, the vet was dismissive of the question and just reasserted that it needed to be removed. He described the surgury, the fact that Eric would have to be put under and then would have several weeks of healing after the removal took place.
"But then he wouldn't have his back toes," I said, not understanding.
"But he'd be rid of these," the vet responded pointing again at the dangling digits.
"But that's serious surgery," I said.
"Have you looked at these," the vet responded pointing at the toes under discussion.
Eric stood there, shivering like he always did in the vets office. He'd only been with us a few days. He was getting used to us, trying to trust us after the abuse he'd suffered at the hands of others.
"Can you explain to me the benefits, to Eric, in removing the back toes?" I asked again, trying my "at work advocate" voice.
The vet sighed and said, "The simple fact is, Mr. Hingsburger, the toes are unsightly. They dangle there and serve no purpose. I suppose that the purpose of the operation would be cosmetic."
Cosmetic surgery for my dog!! The vet could see the shock on my face and tried to placate me, "People may make fun of him." And that's going to hurt my dog's feelings?
"He'd been beaten for God's sake. We brought him in because he'd been beaten and we're discussing cosmetic surgery on his TOES!?!" I was upset and the vet knew it. The subject was dropped. Eric lived for 16 years with dangly toes and never seemed to notice. No one ever teased him because of his back toes, and they'd have had to deal with me if they did.
We switched vets, obviously, and every vet we went to see we began by being clear ... the toes are not up for discussion.
My dog was not a designer dog - he was one of a kind. He had God's fingerprints all over him and his toes. So his feet were a little different from the ordinary - so was his heart. I'd give anything to have him and his toes back, for just five minutes today because I've been missing him something awful.
I looked in his eyes and his toes became beautiful. That's how it's supposed to work, isn't it?