I remember the excitement rushing through me. The rays of sunshine coming through the windows were interrupted by passing trees. The radio was quietly humming the anthem of the hottest hits. It was the day that would forever change my family.
I hopped out of the car parked in front of the animal shelter. I felt my heartbeat quicken with each step towards the doors. I could hear a variety of barks and yaps as I walked in, and I was excited to find the bark that belonged to our new family member. The lady at the front desk sensed our excitement and kept her welcome short. We were lead through the aisles of dogs, young and old, hoping to find a new home. A few of them perked up as I walked by, while others had no interest in me at all. I heard a bark from the next aisle over and followed the sound. I came upon a cage in the back of the room holding a small boxer wearing a red collar. I bent down and read the tag on the collar. Buddy. I looked up and my eyes were met with two large brown orbs. I stared into his eyes and I saw him as a part of my family.
I saw me giving him a bath and laughing as he splashes the water on me. I’m jumping up and down with excitement because he finally learned a new trick. I’m taking him for a walk in the park and playing fetch with him. I’m scolding him after I come home to a bathroom covered in unrolled toilet paper. My face is being covered with sloppy kisses because I wasn’t feeling well. I’m holding him tight in my arms because he is afraid of thunderstorms. I’m going to sleep at night with him by my side. I’m watching him grow right before my eyes. Most importantly, I’m loving him and he’s loving me.
I closed my eyes for a second and reopened them. I was faced with a Buddy much older than the one I met at the animal shelter. This Buddy wasn’t as energetic. He was laying down because his back legs didn’t work the way they used to. Those large brown orbs I looked into could no longer see the world. The silhouette of the ribs in his chest were evident from the lack of food because it was painful for him to eat. How could this happen to him? He was always a good dog. Loyal, obedient, and loving. He didn’t deserve any of this.
I started to think about how painful it is for him to live now. He could no longer do the things he did as a puppy. Every day he sits in pain and misery. The only thing I can do is to watch him suffer…unless I euthanize him. Is it really worth it? Would that be cruel? Am I killing him or saving him? It’s not fair to let him live like this any longer. I have to do what’s for his own good.
I tried to reassure myself as I sat in the waiting room of the veterinary hospital alongside my family. We all agreed that Buddy would be in a much happier place after the procedure. Buddy’s large body was resting on my lap. I rubbed his head to comfort him, but I realized I was trying to comfort myself as well. Everyone was silent until the veterinarian called us to one of the rooms. I placed Buddy on his feet and he struggled to stand upright. Inside the room were four chairs, a computer, and a table for the animals. My family and I sat down in the chairs as the veterinarian placed Buddy on the table. I looked at Buddy and wished that I could turn back time. The veterinarian turned around to face us and discussed the procedure and promised that it would be painless for Buddy. He gave us the option to leave the room, but we wanted to be there for Buddy during his last few moments.
The veterinarian put on white latex gloves and prepared the needle. I felt my heart beat quicker and I tried to prevent my tears from falling down my face. Buddy was resting on his side as the veterinarian injected the needle into a vein in his leg. Almost immediately, Buddy’s muscles seemed to relax one by one. I kept my hand on his head and rubbed his ears to calm him. I watched the rising and falling of his chest slow down until it eventually came to a stop. His entire body went limp and his eyes slowly fell shut. He appeared to be in a deep sleep. I couldn’t stop the tears streaming down my face. I removed Buddy’s red collar from around his neck and clenched it tight in my fist. I gave the lifeless dog a final hug and whispered my goodbyes before I left the room.
Now here I am, driving away with one less part of me. The sky’s tears hit the windshield as my own escape my eyes. The radio is muted and I am left alone with my thoughts and the sound of thunder. I reach for Buddy’s collar in the passenger seat next to me and hold it close to me; the way I did with Buddy during thunderstorms. I ran my thumb over the imprint on the tag and looked down to read it. Buddy.