Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thank you for killing my dog

                Whenever someone said the words, “Congratulations on graduating from college!, what I heard was, “Someone you love is going to die.”
                It was a slightly superstitious idea to believe, but not unfounded. When I graduated from high school, our beloved 18-year-old van The Golden Girl immediately bit the dust. It seemed only logical and poetic that something else would be taken from me as I transitioned from one phase in life to the next, leaving behind college and embracing the real world; embracing new people and leaving behind (to be determined) because he/she had died.
                I didn’t have to wait long to find out who it would be. Once I had unpacked my bags at home, my dad came to me with grim news. “Audrey , it’s time to put Jake down.”
                Well, at least it wasn’t one of the grandmas, I thought.
                It was really no surprise that Jake was going to die. Our cocker spaniel had been on his last legs for a while, mostly due to the arthritis.  Going for walks had lost their appeal, and car rides now seemed daunting because he could no longer make the leap into the seat.  Even our devil of a cat couldn’t liven him up anymore. He would lie on the floor as she jumped or gnawed on his head. Jake spent most of his days corralled in the kitchen where his daily bouts of incontinence were easier to clean. Some days, he would look my mom dead in the eyes as he pooped on the linoleum. He was also two years older than we had always believed, so at the ripe age of 17 ½, it was time for Jake to die.
                Between me, my sister and father, Jake was pet continually in the sterilized room as we waited for the vet.
                “We’re going to sedate him first so the final shot isn’t as difficult,” she informed us when she walked in. “It will take a few minutes to kick in.” She administered the shot and left.
                Jake began vigorously pacing around the room, like an old man mumbling to himself about the rowdy kids outside but not leaving the room to do anything about it. We watched him expectantly. Soon, he will topple over and wonder why he can’t move his legs. Remember, that’s supposed to be sad, not funny. He looked disoriented when it happened, like a baby who knows he can walk but can’t make his legs follow his brain. Eventually, his breath became shallow and he calmed down enough to be killed.
                The vet returned and frowned at Jake. “It’ll be easier to administer the shot if we shave his leg.”
The razor buzzed to life and rattled Jake in his stupor. He flipped his head at the vet and nipped at her, growling with the vehemence of a much younger dog.
                “Oh, a bit cranky today are we?” The vet said nonchalantly.
                You are trying to kill me, Jake thought.
                She administered the shot quickly. It didn’t take long for Jake to return to his sedated state.
                Soon, I heard the vet say, “I’m sorry.”
                It seemed like she paused. Did she pause?
                “I’m sorry, but something went horribly wrong. We turned your dog into a zombie.”
                “I’m sorry,” the vet said. “He’s gone.”
                Oh. Well, that was expected.
                She quickly scooped up his limp body and took him to the back to be bagged.
                We meandered to the car. When Adrienne turned to face me, she was laughing hysterically, pointing at the tears streaming down her cheeks as if to say, “What is going on with my face?”
                One of my old classmates from high school carried bagged Jake to our car. My first reaction was to say, “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while, Roni! Thanks for carrying my dead dog!” But perhaps I finally received the gift of common sense, because I said nothing.
                I had already moved to Alaska when my family held the memorial service. My mom sent me this message about it:  
We had a service for Jake today. Aunt Pam read a poem (for dead dogs) and we had a lovely service. His stone was placed and Aunt Pam brought two hostas to plant next the stone. She started singing Kumbaya but lost a number of us at that point.
All in all, a good day.       
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