Characters: JD, Buck, Elvis (the dog), OCs
Summary: JD learns the hard way why rules have to be followed, and Elvis pays the price.
Author's note: Don't faint, but Chris and Vin have only a “cameo” in this story. It's Buck, JD, and JD's dog, Elvis. I'm shooting for an angst fest, so be warned. Also, the vet clinic and it's OC's are based on the clinic I've gone to with my pets for the last 40 years. And Susie has been there pretty much that entire time! The vet is a mixture of both vets at the clinic, both of whom are great vets and wonderful people.
“Da!” The panicked cry of his son sent Buck Wilmington running from the house. He found JD sitting on the ground in the backyard, holding onto his pup and crying.
“What? What's wrong, buddy?” He dropped to his knees in front of his son and began scanning for signs of injury. “What happened?”
“I-i-i-it's ELVIS!” JD sobbed.
It was only then that he realized that the golden retriever in his son's embrace was whimpering. “What's wrong?”
“Let me see.” When JD pointed to the dog's right front paw, he noticed that the paw was covered with blood. Keeping his voice level, he said, “Oh. Okay, can you go get me a wet washcloth?”
“Nooooo! I don't wanna le-le-leeeeave him!”
“Okay, listen, I'll go get the washcloth and we'll see what's wrong, okay?”
“'Kay.” The distraught child continued to sob, the dog in his embrace whimpered as Buck got to his feet and sprinted back into the house. He got to the kitchen and grabbed a clean dishcloth from the drawer, wetting it and wringing it out before checking that he had his cell with him and heading back out the door. As he reached the deck he could hear his son, scolding his pet.
“No, Elvis, don't lick it!”
“It's okay, Little Bit, dogs do that.” He knelt down once more and gently took the dog's injured paw, “Now, just let me have a look see, Elvis.”
“But that's 'sgusting!” JD lamented.
“For people, yeah, but dogs and cats clean their boo-boos like that. Well, there we are.” He found a deep gash in the dog's paw. Wrapping the washcloth around the injured paw, he said, “Looks like he got himself quite an owwie. I'm gonna see if we can catch the vet before they close for the day.”
“'Kay.” JD's sobs had slowed, becoming sniffles and the occasional hiccup.
Buck let out a breath as the phone was answered at the other end. “Cross Vet Clinic.”
“Hey, Susie, it's Buck Wilmington. Our Golden, Elvis, has got a doozy of a gash on his foot. Can we bring him in?”
“Oh dear, sure, come on in, I'll let Doc know.”
“We're on our way.” Disconnecting the call, he turned back to his son. “I'm gonna go get my stuff and we're gonna take him right in to the vet, okay?”
Leaning his head against that of his dog's, the little boy nodded.
Buck was back in a few minutes, having gathered up the things he would need. The other two members of the household, three counting the other dog, had gone out for a ride earlier in the day and weren't expected back until evening. Since JD had just gotten over a stomach virus, Buck didn't think bouncing around in the saddle was what he needed at the moment.
Kneeling next to the retriever, he spoke softly to the dog as he prepared to pick him up. Making sure the injured paw was still wrapped he lifted the dog into his arms and said, “let's go,” as he started toward the garage. There, he opted for Chris' Ram, since the booster seats were already fastened inside. He sat Elvis on the garage floor with a “stay command” long enough to gather the large crate they used to transport the dogs and place it in the truck bed. That done, he lifted the unusually docile dog up and placed him inside the crate. Elvis whimpered, but then lay down as Buck closed and latched the door.
“But, can't he ride up front wif me?” JD asked tearfully.
“Sorry, Little Bit, no. He'll be safer back here, remember we talked about this?” When JD nodded, he lifted his son into his seat and buckled him in. Closing the door, he hit the remote that would cause the garage door to raise, climbed behind the wheel and started the truck.
The were just reaching the road at the end of the lane when JD asked softly, “Da? Is Elvis gonna die?”
“What? No, buddy, he just has a bad owwie. Once Doc gets it taken care of, he'll be fine.”
Buck flinched and looked in the rear-view mirror to find his son with a thumb in his mouth. He almost scolded him but, instead, said, “Yes, JD, I promise.”
The trip to the Veterinary Hospital seemed to take forever, although in reality it was just a little more than ten minutes. In all that time JD was silent which, as far as any of them knew, was a record. Buck tried to get him to talk a few times but, when his son made it clear that he wasn't interested in talking, he simply turned on the stereo and passed the rest of the trip listening to the news.
At the hospital, Buck parked close to the clinic door. Quickly getting JD out of his seat, he moved to the back of the truck. Elvis lifted his head when he let down the tailgate and he let out a relieved sigh. Opening the door of the crate, he managed to get the pup out and lifted him into his arms once again, relieved to see that the dog had left the makeshift bandage alone. “Okay, buddy, can you go open the door for me?” With a nod, the child ran to the front door of the clinic and pulled it open with a grunt. Buck carried the dog into the reception area. He managed a smile at the office manager, Susie, which she returned.
“Doc said for me to take you on back so we can do a quick assessment,” Susie explained. She was an older woman with silver curls and deep laugh lines around bright, blue eyes.
“I appreciate it, darlin', I wasn't lookin' forward to sittin' and holding him for very long.”
The office manager chuckled, “I'll bet. Hi, JD!”
“Hi.” The child said softly, from around his thumb.
They were ushered into the room that was designated “Exam 1” and Buck settled the dog on the high exam table.
Susie leaned down and looked JD right in his big, hazel eyes. “I know it's scary when a pet gets hurt, JD, but the doctor is going to take real good care of him. I'll bet he's up and about in a couple days.”
“'Kay,” was all the little boy said, before he stood on tiptoe and looked up into the face of his pet. “I'm right here, Elvis.”
Susie pulled a footstool out from under the table and placed it where JD could stand on it. The little boy climbed up onto it, able to see his pet more clearly now. While he sucked on one thumb, his other hand gently petted Elvis' head. A young woman entered the room, looking barely out of her teens. She was blond and slender, smiling brightly.
“Hi, I'm Summer, Doc's assistant. I'm going to wash off Elvis' paw so we can take a better look, okay?”
“Is it gonna hurt?” JD asked.
Leaning down a little so she was looking JD in the eye, Summer said, “It's gonna hurt a little, so he might holler or whine, but it won't hurt for very long, and then Doc can come fix him up, okay?” Gently, Summer began to wash away the blood, which still looked fresh and, Buck was shocked to see, there seemed to be more of it. The tech kept up a soft litany, praising the dog for lying so still. When his paw was completely cleaned off, she examined the injury, “tsking” softly. “He really got a bad gash here. Any idea what happened?”
“No, I don't. Little Bit? Did you see Elvis get hurt?”
The five-year-old shook his head. Then the tears cascaded once more before he cried, “Ith my fawt!”
Elvis, seeing his boy so sad, leaned forward and began to lick the salty tears from his little face.
Squatting down beside his son, Buck asked gently, “What happened, buddy?”
It took some time for them to decipher the child's words, but the gist of it was that JD had carried a glass out onto the deck the day before, despite being told time and again that he was supposed to use only the plastic glassware, especially outside. The reason became quite clear to him when he dropped and broke the glass on the deck. Panicking when he heard someone coming, he had pushed the broken pieces through the narrow gaps between the boards of the deck. As five-year-olds often do, he forgot about the glass almost immediately. When Vin and Chris had left for their ride that morning, they had put Elvis into the dog run which was below the deck, not knowing about the glass, of course. When he had come out a short time later, he had let Elvis out of the run, and the golden had come limping out, whining and holding his paw up. As the little boy's confession ended, Buck managed to keep a stern look on his face, although all he wanted to do was gather his son into his arms and hold him. “I guess that you'll remember not to take glass out onto the deck again, huh?”
Nodding vigorously, JD lisped, “Yeth thir.”
“Okay, well, when we get home, I'll get the glass out of the run, but then you're going to have to rake all of the straw out of it and put fresh straw in. You're also going to sweep the entire deck so we make sure there aren't any little pieces of glass left behind.”
Although his normal response was an argument, JD simply nodded and said, “Yeth thir.”
“Okay then.” Buck turned as someone new entered the room. He smiled and greeted the vet, “Hi, Doc.”
“Hi. I hear we got a major boo-boo?” She came around the table so that she could examine the wound. She was young for a vet, with unruly brown hair and a pleasant face.
“Yep, evidently Elvis stepped on a big piece of glass,” Summer supplied. “I've debrided it, it seems like a clean cut, but it looks like he's suffered significant blood loss.”
“Oh dear,” Cynthia Lee said as she examined the wound more closely. “Yeah, it's a very deep cut. It's going to need stitches. I'll tell you what. I'd like to keep him over night, just to make certain he's okay.”
“Whatever you say, Doc,” Buck agreed then turned to his son, “JD, give Elvis a good-bye hug, and --”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” JD cried pitifully. “I don't wanna leave hiiiiiiiiiiim!”
“JD, this is the best thing for him. Doc's gonna get him patched up and make certain that he's feeling better. We'll come get him as soon as she says he can go home.”
“JD,” the doctor tried, “with a boo-boo like this, we have to put stitches in it so his paw can heal. If he stays here tonight, we can watch him and make sure he's okay. He'll probably just sleep all the way until tomorrow, anyway.”
“But... I d-don't wanna... leave him!”
“JD, I know you're worried about him, but we need to do what's best for Elvis, and right now, staying here with the doctor is the best thing for him. Now, you can cry all you want, but this is a grown up decision, and we're going to do what we need to do. Now, say good-bye to Elvis.”
Still sobbing, the little boy leaned forward and kissed the furry muzzle. “Bye, Elvis.”
Picking his son up, Buck nodded to the doctor and her assistant before leaving the room. In the reception area, he made certain Susie had all their contact information, JD still sniffling as he laid with his head on his father's broad shoulder.
“Did you sweep all the way to the edges and in the corners?”
“Yeah,” JD replied, still looking down at his feet. Buck couldn't remember seeing his son this despondent; even when they had first rescued the boys, JD had been a bright ray of sunshine in their lives. His heart ached for his child, but he forced himself to stand firm. It was one of the hardest things he'd ever done.
“Okay, I'm going to get the glass out and then you can take out the straw and put fresh in.” He had donned thick gloves and the knee pads they used when they were going to be doing a lot of kneeling. The last thing he wanted to do was get cut, himself; JD was feeling bad enough as it was.
Opening one of the access gates, he crawled inside the dog run. As soon as his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, he grimaced. There seemed to be smudges of blood everywhere. He couldn't believe that the dog had been so calm through it all but, now, seeing all the blood, he was thankful that Elvis had survived at all. He almost decided against having JD clean out the straw, not wanting the child to deal with another trauma. In the end, he decided to remove the worst of it, but to leave some of the bloodied straw behind for JD to deal with. The situation had been serious enough; he didn't want to risk the five-year-old forgetting this lesson.
By the time he had finished, Buck had found half a dozen good sized pieces of glass, two of them covered in the dog's blood. Stuffing them and the most gore covered straw in the bag he'd brought with him, he backed out of the run. Straightening, he said to JD, “Some of the straw has blood on it, Little Bit, I wanted to let you know that first. But it's important that you remember this, so you don't do something like this again, understand?”
JD nodded, head still down. He was wearing a miniature pair of work gloves and holding a child's rake. Not having to bend down at all, he entered the dog run. Buck stood outside, listening to the sounds of straw being raked up, punctuated by an occasional sniffle or sob. As JD brought the straw out into the yard, he bagged it up, setting it aside to be disposed of later. It took over an hour for the little boy to clean out the straw and replace it with fresh, but there wasn't a word of complaint the entire time. When he was finished, JD came out from under the deck and mumbled, “I'm done.”
“Good job, Little Bit. Now, go on in and get a bath, get all the loose straw and... and stuff washed off, okay?”
“Yes, sir.” At least, with the gloves on, he wasn't sucking his thumb.
By the time JD had bathed and changed into his night clothes, it was dinner time. In an effort to bring the boy's spirits up a little, Buck had ordered his favorite pizza to be delivered. Even giving JD the money to pay the delivery man, though, didn't help much.
They ate the pizza and played Clue, Junior, which JD usually loved to play. Tonight, however, the little boy was only going through the motions.
“Elvis is going to be okay.”
Looking up for what seemed to be the first time that day, JD said softly, “he bleeded so much.”
“Well, that's why the doctor wanted to keep him over night, to make sure he's okay. I'm sure they gave him some new blood if he needed it.”
“It's your turn, Little Bit.”
They finally just stopped the game, and Buck suggested they watch a movie, instead. JD surprised him with a shake of his head.
“I'm gonna go to bed.”
Seeing that it was barely six, Buck asked, “You don't want to stay up 'til Chris and Vin get home?”
Another shake of the head, and, “I just wanna go to bed. I'm tired. Okay, Da?”
His heart breaking, Buck said, “Okay. Want me to come sit with you 'til you go to sleep?”
“No, thanks. I just wanna be by myself.” With that, the little brunet climbed down from the chair and padded toward his bedroom. Behind him, Buck could do nothing but sit there, watching.
Chris and Vin came home half an hour later and found Buck still sitting at the dining room table, the game still out.
“You practicing so you can beat the boys?” Chris joked, slapping his old friend on the back.
“Oh, hey, pard, didn't hear you come in.”
“Where's JD?” Vin asked.
“He... went to bed,” Buck explained.
“Is he still sick?” Chris asked with concern.
“It's a whole different type of sick,” Buck sighed, then told the other two members of the family what had happened. By the time he was finished, Vin looked ready to cry. “He's gonna be okay, Vin, I promise. We'll probably bring him home tomorrow.”
“I'm gonna go check on JD,” Vin said before heading for the bedroom.
“Don't wake him up if he's sleeping, Cowboy,” Chris cautioned.
Vin tip-toed into the room, which was lit only with the setting sun. He went to the bunkbeds, leaning down to look at the other child. JD seemed to be asleep, holding tightly to his Scooby Doo doll. Vin watched him for almost an entire minute before deciding the younger boy was truly asleep. He left the room just as quietly, not seeing the big hazel, red-rimmed eyes peek over Scooby's head to watch his departure.
“Hey, Little Bit, it's time to get up,” Buck announced, leaning over his son's bed. “You and me have to go somewhere.”
“No,” came the response from deep within the tangle of blankets. JD hadn't slept much the night before; every time he closed his eyes, he could see Elvis looking at him with his big, brown eyes. Time and again he almost got up and went to seek the comfort of his father's bed, but he stayed where he was. He had never had such a bad feeling about something he'd done, and he couldn't make himself get out of bed.
“Come on now, kiddo, it's time to get up. Chris is making his special french toast for breakfast.”
“Elvis is ready to come home.”
For a second the world seemed to get very still, then there was a flurry of activity as JD untangled himself from his bedding. “HE IS!?!”
Laughing as he swung the tiny body into his arms, Buck said, “Yep. The Doc called just a minute ago and said he's doin' real good. Now, you need to understand that he's gonna have some special rules for the next few days. He has to stay quiet, so we're going to have to crate him when we're not home. And he's got to wear a special collar, called a cone, for the next few days.”
“But he's gonna be okay?”
An hour later they entered the clinic. JD was quiet, his thumb finding its way into his mouth time and again. He held tightly to Buck's hand and his eyes were once again focused on his shoes. He had been excited while they were getting ready to come to the clinic but, as they came nearer to their destination, he grew as quiet as he had been the evening before.
“Hi, Buck, hi, JD,” Susie greeted them both. “Elvis is ready to come home. Did Doc explain about the cone and that he'll need to stay quiet for a few days?”
“Yep. Chris and Vin are getting things ready so that we can crate him when we're not home. Not sure JD, Elvis or Ringo are gonna be real happy, but JD understands that we have to do what's best for Elvis.”
“I'm gonna take real, real, real good care of him,” JD said softly, still staring at his feet.
“I'll bet you will,” Susie replied. “But you want to know what Elvis told me last night?”
Looking up with a puzzled frown, JD said, “Dogs can't talk to people... 'cept in cartoons and movies.”
“Well, when you work around them as long as I have, you learn to understand what they're thinking,” she explained, “and he told me last night that he can't be happy if you're so sad. So, you're going to have to stop feeling so sad and work on smiling. Can you do that?”
“I'm still really sad,” JD murmured.
“I know, sweetheart, but you didn't hurt him on purpose, did you?”
“I didn't think so. Elvis knows that, and he's already forgiven you. So now you need to stop feeling so guilty and concentrate on helping Elvis get better. Okay?”
Smiling now, JD said, “Yes, ma'am.”
“Is there a little boy out here looking for his dog?” Summer came out, leading Elvis on a leash. His paw was heavily bandaged, and he wouldn't put any weight on it; he was also wearing a plastic “cone”. Yet, he was wagging his tail, and seemed to be smiling as he saw JD.
“Elvis!” JD screeched as he dropped to his knees in front of his dog. Laughing and crying at the same time, he found a way to hug the Golden Retriever despite the cone and the bandaged foot.
While JD and Elvis were greeting one another, Susie gave Buck the printed instructions on how to care for the injured dog for the next week, along with pain medication and antibiotics. She also handed him two of the larger “greenies” bones for both Elvis and Ringo “on the house”. Susie had a soft spot for the little boys and their dogs.
Folding the paperwork up and putting it in his pocket, Buck said, “You ready to go, Little Bit?”
“Are you ready to go home, Elvis?” JD asked, looking into the dog's eyes. He giggled as Elvis gave a happy little “whoof” in response.
February 9, 2012