I'm so sorry Emma
I remember when I found you. This little puppy at the pound with a golden coat and freckled white socks and a too-big, evil-looking studded collar - as if you were some tough kind of killer or something - when all you were was a dumped-off puppy that was so cute you looked like you’d been stolen from a Disney movie. You were all floppy ears and blue eyes and soft fur. I remember bringing you home and introducing you to Molly. You were scared. But in a quarter hour, you were barking at her feet and chasing her around the house and she was chasing you back and barking too, even though she wasn’t a barking kind of dog.
I’ve thought of little else but you today.
You weren’t a smart dog. I remember training Molly with ease – showing her something a few times, and, there you go, she had it. I remember working on down with you over and over and over again, getting bored and frustrated, but you staying alert, because you wanted the treat but couldn’t quite figure out what you needed to do to get it. You got it eventually, but it took a long time. I taught Molly all kinds of tricks. I was happy with sit and down and off and just-walk-well-on-a-leash with you.
You weren’t an easy dog. I remember being angry with you so many times. When you chewed the kitchen door into a thousand pieces during a thunderstorm and scattered the kitchen garbage and the door shavings into a 4-inch pile across the kitchen and my roommate called me at work to tell me and I had to rush home. When I would go out of town and you would suddenly develop explosive diarrhea and the pet sitter would call me frantically asking what to do and I would tell her it was just nerves and close my eyes and sigh and think of the floors. When you attacked puppies and smaller dogs at the dog park, even though you’d lick babies’ faces all day long if you could and were gentle as a feather duster with toddlers. When I moved, and at the new house you got upset and jumped out the second story window onto the porch roof, and we came home and couldn’t find you until we happened to look that direction, and there you were, huddled on the roof, scared as hell and happy to be dragged by your neck back to the upstairs window. When you got worried one day and jumped out yet another window and broke your front leg and snapped all the tendons in it and it took me $600 to decide I couldn’t afford the surgery to fix it and I sure didn’t want anyone to amputate that cute white sock. These and a thousand other things, Emma, these made me doubt you.
It took a lot of work to get you to be the kind of dog I wanted you to be. There were so many times I thought, I should just get rid of this dog, goddamit, she’s a pain in the ass, but I never did. And you know what? Even though you were hard, I did eventually figure out to watch the weather forecast if the skies were ominous and drug you at any chance of a thunderstorm even if that seemed like overkill. I stopped letting you off-leash, and got really good at shouting at people if their dog approached us, and the vet, after being warned of the likely consequence of my being gone, wasn’t overly concerned about diarrhea spilled on a concrete floor and cheap blankets, and then doggie Prozac helped some too. After your broken leg healed, eventually all you had was a limp when you were running. Then, Emma, you were mostly the kind of dog I had wanted, and I was glad I hung in there. Now I had this long history with you, I had this foot-in-the-door thing, and I still had you Emma, and could enjoy the things about you that were easy to love without the things about you that were easy to hate getting in the way of my affection for you.
And then today I put you to sleep.
I took a personal day off work. After I lay in bed pressing the snooze button far after I was awake, I finally got up and took a shower. I let you eat as much as you wanted. You ate so much food you threw up. Then I took you for a long walk. I ran into another walker at the park. He stopped and petted your head as your tail swept back and forth slowly and told me what a nice dog you were. There was also a guy with a puppy - the puppy strained at the end of his leash to reach you - but I held you back. Both of these things made my throat close.
I called Banfield and told them I needed to bring in my 14-year old dog to euthanize her. They were nice enough to offer a new customer discount even though the circumstances pretty much ensured I wouldn’t be coming back, but warned me that they didn’t put down dogs for spurious reasons. I remember I closed my eyes when the receptionist said that. I know they have to worry about why people put dogs down, but I didn’t need any questions making this choice harder.
So I took you in Emma, and I weighed you, and I told the vet why I thought it was time for you to go. I sat in a chair in a small room decorated with photos of children with their dogs, their very young and healthy and photogenic dogs, and gave my case to the vet about why you needed to die. She listened to what I said and asked questions and every now and again reached down to pet you. I felt like a simply horrible person.
There were pamphlets on the walls about how to counter disease in your pets. The only pamphlet I saw that pertained to you, Emma, was how to deal with the death of your dog, and I just couldn’t pick that one up.
They took you away and I cried – I’d like to think it was soft and inaudible – but I don’t think so. I thought for a minute they were taking you away for good, and I wouldn’t be there with you and I was ready to be angry, because I wanted to be angry at someone, but they noticed my alarm and said they’d be right back. You came back with a catheter in your leg. The vet asked me again if I was sure, I said nothing, just looked at her, thinking, don’t ask me that, of course I’m not sure, and said nothing. She took a needle with pinkish liquid and put it in your catheter. I held your face, I was crying, and you looked at me, with such trust it made my heart break. The vet took your leg and slowly plunged the needle in. Your head sunk down but you were still looking at me. Your head was cupped in my hands. Then the vet took the big needle out, and took another, smaller, needle, and put that it your catheter. Your eyes closed and you head got heavy as a rock, but soft and lax in a way it had never been before. I looked at the vet and asked her if you were dead, and she said that she had to check your heart, but her eyes said that yes, you were dead. And you were, and I had killed you.
My right eye tears more than my left. When I get home I’ll let Molly sit on the couch for once, and stroke her ears like you liked yours stroked. Your tags. I forgot I had, when I got them made, specified that they say, I love people, but keep me away from other dogs. Why are my hands shaking? These were the thoughts in my head.
I thought about how I got you, a throwaway dumped in a box at night, and about all the stray dogs that are put down alone, all the backyard breeders that think just because someone wants a puppy this translates into life and how hard you were and how easy it would have been to give you up and how glad I was I kept you and how much I love you still, even though I might as well have put the needle in you myself. These are the things that go through my mind.
I’m so sorry Emma. I’m so very very sorry.