I recognized the sound for what it was immediately. Eighty was trying to get her back legs under her and get to the door, but this was the time it was not going to work. I’d been expecting it — dreading it — for weeks.
Eighty is the dog we chose for John’s eightieth birthday in 2002. We had been visiting the pound and the Humane Society for a week and had not found The One. “How about this one?” I asked, pointing out a medium sized black-grey one with the long legs, folded ears, bedroom slipper feet, Andy Rooney eyebrows and a bright, curious look that said, “Hey, what about me?”
“What kind is it?” John asked. And so I read, “It says ‘female, terrier mix, twelve to eighteen months’, which I guess means they don’t know. But she’s very cute.” And so, after some perfunctory time on the leash when she behaved nicely, she sat quietly as we went through the adoption process and took her home. She trembled all the way.
We were still pretty new in the neighborhood and it turned out that Eighty was our ticket in. Every other house in our “barrio” had a dog as did all the neighborhoods nearby, all connected by the walking paths along the washes. Regularly someone would ask, “What kind of dog is that?” “Part Griffon?” “Schnauzer?” “Airedale mix?” Our standard reply became, “She’s a rare, one-of-kind Humane Society dog.”
That was thirteen and a half years ago, and now she was looking to me for assistance, a mixture of confusion and pleading. I lifted her back end and she managed to get outside for a widdle and almost back again before her back end gave out again. I gave her water but she declined to eat even her beloved Charlie Bear treats. And so I got a blanket and got down on the floor with her and we talked.
I thanked her for teaching me about dogs, their loyalty, their willingness always to forgive, their joy in simple pleasures and for always being at the door to welcome me home with a tail-wag. I reminded her what a good time we had teaching her to come when called, with John on one end of the house and I on the other calling, “Eighty, come!” as she raced back and forth once she discovered there would be a Charlie Bear at either end. How I went to the library and came home with three books on “how to train your new dog” and she chewed them up. She reminded me of how much she enjoyed singing along when John played the harmonica and later when I played the flute, and how much she loved it when we had visitors. We talked about her doggie friends — Guinness, Chaco, Casey, Maggie, and gentle Gita the greyhound and her BFF Luna. How they would chase each other to near exhaustion and then lay down together to recover before a rousing game of tug of war with their leashes. There are no friendships like doggie friendships. I thanked her for being my anchor in the weeks after John died and my loyal companion as we aged together.
And then it was time. I called the vet and made a comfortable nest for her in the hatch of the Prius. Our neighbors Ted and Bob helped lift her in. By then I was seriously blubbering and Ted said, “I could take her in, you know.” “No, no, I can do it. It’s the price we must pay for loving them.”
For the first time ever she was not trembling in the vet’s office. This time I was the one trembling. The first shot made her sleepy and she drifted off as she spent much of the last year, her eyes closed. The second shot took her away. I didn’t have to watch the light go out of her eyes. An ordinary dog, really. But to me she will always be that rare, one of a kind….
Rosemary Rawson is the author of Coming of Age (SRP, 2014).
Coming of Age by Rosemary Rawson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.