You’re sitting on the couch and it’s typical Friday
afternoon. You open and close your hands on the fabric of the couch nervously.
You look down at Tiki and swallow. You can’t bear that he’s more than four feet
away from you so you walk over to him and pick him up. He whimpers slightly in
protest, not happy to be woken from his slumber. You bring him back to the couch
and sit with him between your arms. You look down at his white fur and caress
him gently. He leans into your hands as if he knows this is the last time you
two will be together. You sit there for another fifteen minutes thinking about
the last twelve years that you had together.
Your mom walks
in, more quietly than usual. She looks over at you and Tiki fondly. “Hello my
boys. How are my two boys? A boy and his dog…” She looks from Tiki to you.
“Alex, I’m having second thoughts, what if we asked Jason or—or Joe?”
thought it through mom, there is no other way. It’s time.” You say. She nods
knowingly and you see her eyes glisten. She looks away and wipes her eyes. “I
have a heavy heart,” she says.
“I know mom, me too,” You say through
clenched teeth as you think ‘why am I always the strong one?’
“Are you ready now?” She asks. You
close your eyes and nod solemnly. “Let’s take him to Erika first so the kids
can say goodbye,” You nod again and pick up Tiki. You carry him to the front
door because you know his blindness would mean waiting ten minutes to find it.
You hook him up on the leash for the last time.
At your sister Erika’s house, you
carry him into the front door. Erika sadly says hi and looks down at Tiki and
pets him. She calls to Sammy and Judah to come say goodbye. Tiki, nervous about
being in a ‘new’ environment crouches down and takes a shit right on the living
room floor. “Wh-what?! He’s pooping!” You say. “This doesn’t make any sense! I
just gave him his insulin shot an hour ago!” For the briefest of moments, you
consider scolding Tiki and calling him a bad dog but immediately realize that
your dog parenting days are over and lessons don’t need to be learnt anymore.
The kids are told that Tiki is being taken to a dog hospital to live with other
sick dogs. Pictures are taken, hugs are made and you leave.
You and your mom drive to the vet.
Your mom’s friend Denise calls and the call is on speaker in the car. They talk
about a guy Denise is dating and you try not to consider the conversation
trivial. You somehow succeed and pay very close attention to the dialogue. It
distracts you from what’s about to happen and you note that this will probably
help you drive safely. As you walk from your parking spot to the vet your mom
asks you if you want to say anything. You shake your head. “No,” After a moment
you change your mind. “Thank you for taking care of him these last couple
You get to the vet and say that you
have a 2:30 appointment. The receptionist looks down at her clipboard.
“Euthanasia?” She asks uncertainly. You and your mom nod. The receptionist
hands your mom a form and says, “the vet is in surgery so you’ll have to wait a
“Take your time, please, no rush,”
You meant to say it politely but it came out as a beg. Your mom fills out the
date first. February 23rd 2018. For ‘remains’ she checks the box
that says ‘group cremation. Ashes will be scattered at a dog memorial.’
The vet comes out and ushers you,
Tiki and your mom into a small examination room. The room has a steel top table
and you put Tiki on it. He shivers nervously. He’s been here before for shots
and checkups. He knows this is a bad place.
“Would you mind telling me all the
things wrong with him? I believe you that he is sick but we have to do an
examination first,” she says this almost apologetically and you can tell she
feels sorry for all of us.
“Uh yea sure no problem,” you say.
“Where to begin? He uhh has diabetes so he urinates close to twenty times a
day. He has cataracts in his eyes so he’s gone completely blind. His hearing is
almost gone so that doesn’t help either—”
“And he has a heartbeat disorder,”
the vet says as she holds the stethoscope to Tiki’s little belly. “He also has
black spots on his skin which could indicate many possible diseases. That scist
on his hind leg doesn’t look good either,” She nods and says “Yes, yes it’s
time, I’m so sorry. You’re making the right decision, I know this is very hard
but you’re doing the right thing. A few weeks longer and he would start to
suffer so this is the appropriate time. I am so very sorry,” She says. She
continues to describe the process for the euthanasia. You try to pay attention
but you’re too busy trying to stop Tiki from shivering. He shouldn’t go out
like this, you think. The vet carries him from the room to a back room where
they will drug him so he won’t feel the pain. You watch him be carried away and
your heart sinks. A few minutes later the vet carries him back and he’s not the
same. His neck is craned all the way to the side in an unnatural position and
his tongue is sticking out to the side in a way you’ve only seen in cartoons.
He’s breathing heavily but uncomfortably.
“You don’t have to be here for this
part,” the vet offers.
You look to your mom, “You can go
mom, but I’m staying with him,”
She takes a last look at Tiki with
his tongue sticked out. “Yea I think I better go,” She sobs loudly and tears
come down her face as she walks out.
You hold Tiki close between your arms
and whisper in his ear, “It’s gonna be okay Tiki, it’s okay don’t worry Tiki,
it’s okay,” You say as your eyes finally start to water. You’re breathing
heavily and petting him frantically. You kiss him on the cheek a dozen times as
the vet prepares a big needle with pink fluid.
“I’m going to inject him with this
and after a few moments his heart will stop, he won’t feel any pain,” She’s
about to make the injection.
“Do you want me to do it?” you ask as
your hand shakes and your nose drips with mucus.
“No, no I wouldn’t want you to have
that kind of memory,” she says fondly.
You want to protest, you know in your
heart that you should be the one to do it. That he deserves it to come from
you, not from someone who’s getting paid to do it. It should come from family.
It’s a matter of honor and respect for the brother in your arms. You want to
protest but you’re just not strong enough. You hold your breath as the vet
inserts the needle. Tiki doesn’t react. You hold him tight and look into his
cloudy eyes. Tears stream down your face and the vet asks her assistant to give
you a tissue. You take it from your periphery and wipe your nose. You hold him
again and pet him. His heart stops and his head drops.
The vet holds the stethoscope to his
heart and says. “He’s already gone,” You try to close his eyes but find you’re
having trouble. “Oh dogs don’t close their eyes when they die like people do,”
You exhale meekly in response. “I’ll give you a few minutes with him,” She
leaves and closes the door. As soon as the door clicks shut you cry
hysterically. You can remember the last time you cried this hard. Eight months
earlier, your girlfriend of 2 years out of nowhere decides she won’t talk to
you anymore. She doesn’t even give you a reason. You ask her to break up with
you and she simply doesn’t respond. You knew it was over and you fell to the
floor crying. You thought you’d never cry that hard again, that you’d become
callous and have felt the deepest sadness a person could feel. For all of
February you secretly feared that on the day Tiki would die that you wouldn’t
be able to cry anymore because your sensitivity left you after the torture of
your ex. You’re relieved that isn’t true as you drench your face in tears.
You hold Tiki’s body crying and
whisper to him. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” As if there was anything else you
could have done. You tell him thank you and you cover him with the blanket. You
forgot something. You uncover him and unclip his collar, then cover him again.
You grip it fiercely and walk out the door.
A half hour later you’re back on the
couch. You turn the tv on to distract you from what you just went through. It’s
the end of E.T. one of your favorites. It’s the part when Elliot is saying
goodbye to E.T. The music is prominent and the characters are tearing. “I love
you,” Elliot says. The music gets louder and you tear up because you know what’s
coming next. You’re thankful your mom isn’t in the room with you because you
never want to cry in front of her. E.T. slowly lifts his finger to Elliot’s
head as Elliot cries. The music gets louder again and then stops just as E.T.’s
finger illuminates. “I’ll…be…right…here,” the music returns louder than ever
and you close your eyes, tears falling quickly.
That night you get in bed and pick up
your book as you do every Friday night. You clip Tiki’s collar around your lamp
and kiss it. After you finish reading you put your book down and note how empty
your bed is. Tiki hasn’t slept with you for months but still you’ve never felt lonelier
in your life. Your bed has never felt this empty. You look up at your skylight
window thinking of Tiki. He’s in a better place, you think. You close your wet
eyes and fall asleep several hours later.