I watch him shuffle around the house and push back the sadness. He doesn’t have much time. There’s nothing left to do. Simon’s 13 years-old and in constant pain. His back legs are bent and twisted. He’s almost blind and deaf. Still, I look at this dog and hate what I have to do.
My son Patrick helps me bring him to the vet. In the old days Simon could jump into the back of my SUV. He loved coming along when I dropped the kids off at school. Now he needs to be lifted onto the back seat.
My sons were 14 and 11 when this dog came into our lives. Simon taught them love, patience and kindness. He also taught them bravery. He approached each person who came into our home without hesitation, determining if they were friend or foe. I grew to trust his judgment.
Today we arrive at the vet. Patrick lets Simon walk around outside on the grass a few moments. I tell myself the dog doesn’t know what’s happening. We do, but he doesn’t. He thinks he’s enjoying the sun and sweet air on a late July afternoon.
We bring him inside and the vet and his assistant are ready. It’s the end of the day and the office is quiet.
In the examining room, Patrick and I sit on the floor with Simon. He’s given a tranquilizer. We pat him and tell him we love him. We tell him what a great dog he’s been. Gradually we feel him relax. He pants softly. If he realizes what’s happening, he seems quiet and accepting.
I watch this dog and think how there’s been too much death lately. My Dad passed away only weeks before. And although an animal’s demise is different than a beloved parent’s, it’s still a loss.
Simon was my friend. From the first day I adopted him, he followed me everywhere in the house. He’d lie in our dining room, one eye always trained on me as I puttered around the kitchen.
He loved his treats and 4:00 p.m. dinner hour. He loved our cat Rocky who he’d touch noses with each day in greeting. He loved to run. He loved our family. He loved walking outside on a cold Connecticut morning, sniffing the air. He loved barking at deer always tantalizingly out of reach.
Before the doctor gives the final injection Simon looks at me and I swear gives a smile. Its like he’s saying its okay. I think of the first time we gazed at each other. He was 3 years old and stood in a cage at the pound. He was one of the quirkier mutts in the line-up — coarse fur, short legs, odd markings. But there was something in those eyes. I saw sweetness.
After the shot Simon’s eyes begin to close. I tell myself I gave him ten good years. He was one of the lucky ones. Patrick and I continue to pat him, both sniffling. I always loved Simon’s velvety ears and can’t believe this is my last time touching them.
Minutes pass and the dog grows still. The vet listens for a heartbeat, looks at us, and shakes his head.
Even though he’s an animal, everyone grows hushed at the sight of death. How can something be alive one moment and gone the next? The vet’s assistant asks if we want his cremation remains and we say no. That’s not how I want to remember Simon. We stay a few more minutes and then drive home.
A week’s passed since that afternoon, but I still find myself listening for Simon’s steps, ready to throw him a treat or give him dinner at 4:00 p.m. I saw a deer in our yard this morning and thought of him. I still expect to see him coming toward me when I open the door, all smiles and body wiggling from excitement.
I want to believe somewhere he and my Dad are together. They always liked each other. Maybe they take walks by the ocean or in a meadow. “Good boy,” my father says, giving Simon a pat. “I’ll take care of you now.”
Simon wags his tail and smiles.
Do have a beloved pet you lost recently? Comments are always welcome and if you like, please share. Thank you.