The vet — Dr. Om — was a short old man, stooped and wiry. The sun had turned his bald head into a turtle shell, dark and shiny. He lived in the little room above the hospital, sleeping in a hammock on the upstairs porch. He smelled of cleaning alcohol and burnt sugar.

I went through the gate with the kids, and when Dr. Om let them into the clinic he let me in, too. He asked me to ‘stay’ in the small waiting room and then took Grace and the kids through a doorway covered with wide, hanging strips of clear plastic. I guessed the strips kept the flies out.

I lay down on the peeling linoleum floor and waited, my nose close to the bottom of the plastic strips. I smelt traces of the dogs and cats, birds and iguanas, monkeys and coatis and raccoons who had been here before me. By their scent I knew most of them had been frightened, many of them sick. Now Grace was one of them.

I whined.

Ramon said my name, and some words. His tone begged me to be patient.

I sighed and wedged my snout between my outstretched paws.

I could hear Dr. Om’s gentle, calm voice, and see the dim outline of him through the plastic as he examined Grace. What was he saying? Was there hope?

–from “Saving Scrumpy”

Dog waiting at vet