“Do you want me to contact Lisa?” Christa asked.
“No. Not yet.” I said as I leaned back against the kitchen counter and crossed my arms. I kicked a piece of dry cereal that had emerged from under the stove across the floor and stared at my foot. I wished life were as simple as the cartoon smiling sushi rolls on my socks.
“I’ll call her whenever you want me to.” Christa said as she quietly left the kitchen. A best friend knows what you are feeling. A best friend knows when you just need a bit more time to sort out your thoughts. Christa was giving me that time but my sweet dog Gracie couldn’t wait much longer. She was confused. In the past twenty four hours, she had fallen several times and was struggling to walk. I had to get my mind right in a time that my fur baby could not.
I thought back to the days of the kids giving Gracie baths in the baby pool on the deck. They would suds her up and spike her hair. They would rinse her with the garden hose and just when they’d least expect it, Gracie would shake and send water sprinkling down all over my laughing children.
I remembered the day when the three kids took Gracie on a walk after school. She was a young dog who had skip in her step. My son Jeff was holding the lease as Monica and Natalie walked with them. Gracie spotted a squirrel and jerked the leash. Jeff held on and the force of the tug dislocated Jeff’s shoulder. The kids ran home to tell me what had happened. Jeff was pale but all three of the kids were laughing. Gracie was bouncing along beside them. She seemed to be laughing too.
“Mom! Gracie saw a squirrel and Jeff held onto the leash and me and Natalie heard a pop and all of the sudden, brother’s arm was extra long!” Monica said as she gasped for air and laughed hysterically.
“Mom, she’s not kidding. Jeff’s arm was hanging down. His hand was almost at his knee.” Natalie said as she laughed with tears in her eyes.
“Wait, Jeff’s arm was extra long? Jeff what happened?” I asked.
“It happened so fast! Gracie saw a squirrel and the next thing I knew, I felt a pop and pain. I put the leash in my other hand, whipped my hurt arm in the air using the force of my body and it just went right back into place!” Jeff said. He said it hurt but he was proud he didn’t lose our dog.
I walked to the laundry room. I stared at my Gracie who was asleep on her hot pink fleece blanket. I recalled all of the late nights when she would wake up the entire household because she heard a raccoon in the trash barrel which was on the exterior wall of where she slept. I stared at the mud splatters on the white walls and was reminded of running to the backyard to rescue her from thunderstorms. I observed the dry dog food that had slipped out of her bowl, the dog hair in her brush, the unopened Milk bones and the red leash. I gripped the door frame and took the biggest breath I could. I wanted to inhale her soul and merge it with mine.
“Christa!” I yelled. “Call Lisa. Make the appointment.”
“Please fill out these few forms. Don’t worry about the back of the second page. Sign and date on all of the yellow marks and we will have a room soon.” The receptionist said. I took a seat and began the paperwork. I hadn’t seen Lisa yet but I knew it was only a matter of time. I quickly scribbled answers to all of the questions. An older couple walking a stocky little Bulldog came in as I was finishing the paperwork.
“Jasper, leave that lady alone.” His owner said as Jasper came over and sat on my foot. He looked up into my eyes and I smiled at him.
“Come on Jasper.” the man said. “I’m sorry Mam. His breath will kill a mule!”
“It’s fine Sir. Let him stay.” I said. Jasper sat on my foot until it was his turn to get on the scale. I believe pets are able to feel the pain in a human. Jasper knew I was hurting. He was trying to comfort me.
“Sherry, how are you?” Lisa asked as she emerged from a door marked Private.
“I’ve been better. This is tough. We lost our other dog just over a year ago. Gracie never recovered form the heartache of the loss. She’s been sad ever since and now she’s had a stroke. She’s ready. As for us, not so much but we don’t believe in allowing her to suffer.”
“We are going to place a soft blanket on the floor. Go ahead and bring her in. We are going to lock the doors and close the office. You are the last appointment of the day.” Lisa said.
Christa and Amber were in the parking lot with Gracie. I motioned for them to come up to the entrance. The three of us and our sixty two pound Shepard Husky mix walked quietly to room number two. A tan blanket was laid neatly on the floor. Gracie paced the room, she was nervous and so were we. The veterinarian explained that she was going to give Gracie a shot to calm her down. She said it would burn. We laid our hands on Gracie’s course fur to embrace her for the small burst of pain. She flinched and turned her head to look at her rear. Within seconds she was calm and resting quietly on the comfy blanket. Sitting on the cold floor, I bent over and got close to her ear. As she began liking her nose and getting drowsy, I whispered, “Do you remember when you were a little bitty baby? I found you at a pest control service. A lady had you hidden under a coffee table. I heard you bark from beneath a navy blue table cloth. I wasn’t the only one who heard you, the landlord did as well. He told the lady to get rid of you. He was stern and said there was a no pet policy. She was sad and panicked. She’d found you on the street. She promised she’d have you at the pound that afternoon but instead, I got off of work early and met her before she left for work at the local pizza place. That’s the day you became mine. Saved by grace.
Gracie was snoring by now. The vet asked if we needed more time. We did not. I asked that they please move quickly. A needle was inserted in her arm and two vials of fluid were pumped into my pet. I held her face and watched life leave her body. I looked at the doctor and asked, “Is she gone?” The vet listened for a heartbeat and there was none. I looked back into the face of my fur baby and her eyes were open but lifeless. With one gentle swipe of my hand, her eyes were closed. Our faces were red and soaked with tears. Lisa stood close to the wall, rocking back and forth wiping her own eyes.
Lisa made us a clay paw print as a reminder of our beautiful pet. Gracie had a wonderful life filled with people who loved her. Lisa is employed at the vet’s office and she’s furthering her education. She intends to remain in that line of work. It’s amazing that even in times of crisis, God will direct you to the people you need at that particular time. Lisa knew Gracie for most of her life. The love in that room that day was immeasurable.