Today I drove my dog to the vet.
She couldn’t walk so I had to carry her out of my office and out to the truck. When I eased her onto the back seat she hardly moved.
Last week she moved a lot. We went to the beach where she always had the run of the house. She loved her morning and evening walks through the neighborhood. She loved barking at the neighbor’s dog. She loved hanging out in the living room and sneaking food. She acted like it was her house, because it was.
Even this morning she was moving. I let her out and she chased a squirrel. Then she came in and curled up on the couch near my desk for hours, something she did more and more often once her kidneys began to fail. When I came downstairs after lunch she was lying on the floor and tried to get up but her back legs buckled and she fell. I stroked her head and watched her chest heave. Her gums were white and her tongue was gray.
I carried her into the vet’s office and lay her on her side on the table. She tried to raise her head to sniff but couldn’t. Her breathing was rapid and labored and she squirmed in evident pain.
The vet told me something must have ruptured and she was bleeding internally. He discussed potential treatment plans involving heroic measures unlikely to make a difference. Then he paused, and I cringed, since for months I had known what was coming next.
My dog wasn’t a great dog. She was scared of storms and tore up carpet and doors and walls trying to escape the crash of thunder; I spent too many nights beside her while she shivered in fear. She loved people but hated other dogs, once turning harmful intent into harsh reality.
But she was a pretty good dog. We shared an office for her entire life so I knew her well. Many of the qualities we love to see in people –loyalty, modesty, caring, and enthusiasm — she exhibited in full. Many of the things we do not like to see in people — duplicity, greed, malice, and selfishness — she was completely innocent of. She was just a dog, and never tried to be anything else. I admired her for that and wished I could be more like her.
I watched as the vet shaved her leg and searched for a vein. My dog flinched a couple times and tried to move but I held my chest across her body and rested my cheek on the back of her head to keep her still. Then he nodded to me and pushed the plunger and I stroked the top of her head and the band of darker fur between her shoulder blades and I held my face close to her ear and whispered that she was a good dog and it was okay, even though the last part was a lie. I felt her chest stop moving. I blinked away tears and her pupils were fixed and she was gone.
The vet left us alone. I rubbed her back and head. I knew she couldn’t feel it, but I did it for me. I tried to close her eyes but they wouldn’t stay closed. I eased the blanket over her face but that felt too final so I pulled it back.
Then I just sat quietly. I didn’t want to go. Leaving meant leaving her behind.
Finally I stood and rested my hand on her side and petted her one last time. She didn’t move.
Today I drove my dog to the vet. And then I drove home alone.
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