It was at least six months since I could encircle her waist with my hands but the rest of Rosalie’s body was still reed thin. Saturday afternoon and we were sitting on the couch. I was holding her very close. A dust storm raged outside rocking the eight by forty-foot house trailer. We each wore wet handkerchiefs tied over our nose and mouth their purpose to filter as much dust as possible. The handkerchiefs smelled like the first drops of rain falling on a dusty dirt road. The trailer shuddered, slipping on the concrete blocks supporting the far end, where we were huddled. The swirling dust inside was so thick I could barely make out the passageway from the kitchen area to the walk-through bedroom only ten steps away from where we huddled.
“It feels like it will tip over,” she moaned.
“No, we’re solid,” I lied. “It will be OK. It would be more dangerous to go outside than to stay put.”
Mister lay panting at our feet, occasionally sneezing to clear his nose. It was August in Paradise Valley, north of Phoenix, and hot, very hot in the closed tight mobile home. The dust turned to mud in skin creases on our necks and on the inside of our elbows where sweat had collected. I wasn’t certain if the threat was greatest from dust inhalation, heat prostration or the house trailer being blown over. Finally, the wind started to abate. I wiped the dust from the face of my wrist watch and peered at it.
“Only forty-five minutes but it sounds like it may be over. It seemed to last a lot longer than usual.”
A last burst of wind slammed the trailer adding to the thick cloud of brown dust. Then it was quiet. Mister sat up and licked Rosalie’s hand to reassure her.
“I am hot, unbelievably hot. I can’t stand this anymore.” Rosalie stood and alternately coughed and sneezed.
“OK,” I said. “I think it’s over. I’ll get up on the roof and take apart the cooler and clean it up so we can turn it on. When I get it apart I’ll yell down and you can turn on the fan. It won’t do much to cool the trailer down but if you open the windows maybe it will blow out some of the dust.”
After stepping carefully on the slippery hot metal of the trailer’s roof I worked my way over to the evaporative cooler. Imagine a car that has been sitting in the Phoenix sun with all the windows rolled up, that was our home. I took off the first of the four side panels and the heat from inside the trailer pushed past my face. Each of the excelsior filled panels was full of mud. I unplugged the circulating pump.
“Honey, turn on the fan and then come around and hand me up the hose, OK?”
I climbed halfway down the ladder to reach the hose Rosalie handed up.
“OK, when I holler turn on the water. I’ll clean out the cooler pan and the excelsior pads.”
Using my thumb over the end of the hose to create a jet I rinsed out the cooler pan then each of the side panels and the pads.
“Watch out, I’m throwing the hose down.”
Mister pounced on the hose snaking on the ground and proudly carried the water spouting end to Rosalie in the process soaking her from the belly down.
“Mister, drop it,” she snapped. “Actually that feels pretty good.” She patted the dog’s head as she turned off the water faucet.
I put the cooler back together and Rosalie turned it on as I came down.
“That should help. I’ll help you clean up the mess inside.”
The people building what was to be the Paradise Animal Hospital were off for the weekend. I was starting my own practice. We had acquired the trailer for a hundred dollars in cash plus taking over the previous owner’s payments. We then moved it to the back of the lot that was the construction site for our hospital. I was spending most of my time going around and leaving business cards with everyone I could find letting people know I would take calls to treat horses or other farm type animals and could do simple things like vaccinations for their pets as house calls. The hospital building was due to be finished soon, or so the contractor kept telling me.
My Dad was an accountant. Two of his clients were retired veterinarians, Drs. Bramley and Shapiro. They would identify likely areas for a veterinary practice, purchase the land and build a clinic. They then leased the buildings to young veterinarians giving an option to purchase the practice after three years. It was a good financial arrangement and investment for them and a good deal, my Dad assured me, for someone like me without the financial resources to build a hospital and practice on my own.