The Drive From Hell (or Why I’m not Afraid of Anything Anymore)

Just before we left the vet clinicThis is going back a few months now but it was a huge turning point for me so I still want to write about it.

Our crazy household is made up of Me, Yuji, Ruby, two dogs (Angus and Bronte), and two cats (Lucy and Eddie). All of our babies have their own very unique personalities but Angus, our “first born”, is our biggest problem child! Originally a rescue from Goondiwindi he has turned into a platinum-plated dog! He has had a knee reconstruction, TPLOs on BOTH of his back legs, and an operation to take the plates from those TPLOs out of his legs and reduce the risk of him developing osteo sarcoma.

Through all of this he has been a bundle of insane energy. He has destroyed blankets, toys, dishes, and anything we gave him to keep him warm,  as well as the backyard – which we used to call a garden. He is so full of life that it is ridiculous, but he has also unfortunately become quite agressive – not with people, but with other animals. We can only guess that it started when he was in pain with his legs, before the operations, as a defense mechanism. Anyway, it means that when we walk him (and I say we becasue I can’t walk Angus, Bronte, and Ruby by myself so it has to be a joint effort with Yuji) he has to have a double leash attached to both a haltie and a harness! And as soon as we see another dog in the distance we do a u-turn or duck down a side street – anything to avoid an encounter between Angus and another dog (apart from his mate Bronte of course). Yep – he’s about as high maintenance as they come! But we love him… so much!

Anyway, when we  first noticed that he had a bit of a limp in his front leg we didn’t worry too much. We just assumed he had hurt his leg a bit somewhere along the way as he leaped off the deck, trampolined against the railing to bark at passersby, or tackled Bronte. But when it didn’t get any better after a while we thought we had better take him to the vet just to be safe. Our vet is in Yokohama and we live in Saitama so it is a bt of a mission to get there. We did try some local vets but the ones we approached really didn’t seem that confident with crazy big dogs and then when it became obvious that we needed the TPLOs done we did some googling and found our vet in Yokohama – a clinic that can perform TPLOs and are comfortable handling big dogs. Since they have been so great we continue to use them for all our animals – the annual spring visit to the vet’s with all four of them is quite an adventure!

So… we headed off to Yokohama with Angus and he spent the whole drive hanging over the back seat (we have a four-wheel drive). I sat in the middle of the back seat to act as a buffer between him and Ruby, in her rear-facing car seat, and all was well. In fact Ruby was fascinated by having Angus in such close proximity and spent most of the trip trying to reach out and touch him! We were in for a shock once we arrived though. We really thought that the vet would tell us it was nothing and that we should just take him home and wait for his leg to get better but instead we were told that there was a pretty high chance that he had osteo sarcoma (read: cancer) in his front leg and they started talking about our options. Those options were pretty bleak and it was all a bit of a blur. I heard them mention radiation, and amputation, and something about the cancer spreading and eventually I started to understand that if it was cancer he wasn’t going to get better. The first thing though was to check that, by some miracle, it wasn’t an infection or something, so they wanted to keep him in the clinic and perform a biopsy.

The problem with this was how we would pick him up from the vet. It was Sunday afternoon. Yuji was leaving the next day to drive to Niigata for his uncle’s funeral and wouldn’t be back until late Tuesday night. He was taking time off work for the funeral so he couldn’t really take Wednesday off as well. And that left… me! Me to drive from Saitama to Yokohama and pick Angus up on Wednesday! – with Ruby! We thought it all out and we figured I could do it. I wasn’t too confident on the highways but I had done a bit of practice with Yuji. I wasn’t confident at all about parking, but by an amazing stroke of luck the clinic was actually closed for consultations that day so the parking lot would be empty! And as for Angus and his love of hanging over the back seat… well he would not be his usual crazy self. He would have just had a biopsy on his front leg bone, which would mean he would have a cast on, and one of those “Elizabeth collars” (the fancy version of a bucket over his head) so he couldn’t chew it. He would no doubt lie quietly on the floor and feel sorry for himself all the way home. I would just have to be careful to lift him gently out of the car when we got home.

But it didn’t go quite that smoothly…

First, the navigation system tried to take me through the centre of Tokyo on the way to the clinic. I ignored it and kept going the way I wanted to go – until I had no idea where to go anymore and had no choice but to obey that little voice. Next thing I knew I was driving over the Rainbow Bridge (!!) and didn’t have a clue how to get where I needed to go. I had absolutely no choice but to obey the voice. It was like a rollercoaster ride that I couldn’t get off. Except I couldn’t close my eyes. And I had a baby in the back seat. A baby who woke up and started crying from hunger because our crazy path meant that we were running late. So by the time I finally made it to the clinic I was a bit of a mess – exhausted from the stress of driving all over three prefectures, hoarse from singing to Ruby, and not looking forward to the trip home!

I picked up Angus and got help lifting him into the back of the car. He laid down on the floor and looked pitifully at me and I thought he was feeling way too sorry for himself to cause any trouble.

After all, he did start out on the floor.

For about the first five minutes.

Then, about a kilometre down the track, he somehow managed to jump up and hang his head, shoulders and two front legs over the back seat – right next to where Ruby was in her rear-facing car seat! She thought it was awesome. I nearly died of stress.

I tried gently encouraging him to get down. I tried yelling. I pulled over and coaxed him down. He jumped back up as soon as I got back on the road. I pulled Ruby’s car seat handle and sun shade up as far as they would go to make as much of a barrier as I could between them. I tried to concentrate on the road. The navigation system took me through the middle of Tokyo and I obeyed the voice. We got caught in traffic. Of course we did. It took more than two hours to get home and Angus was hanging over the back seat for at least ane and a half of those hours. I was a mess.

But we made it! And my baby did not get mauled by my dog! And I did not have a car accident! And now I am not afraid of anything anymore! I am certainly not afraid of driving (although I admit I am still a bit afraid of parking…)! So as long as there is a decent carpark (ready spacious and preferably almost empty!) at the destination I will drive just about anywhere these days!


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