Letting Go

May 29, 2009
By Shelby Anthony BRONZE, St Charles, Illinois
Shelby Anthony BRONZE, St Charles, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The puppy dog eyes clear as glass looked hopefully up at Grace. Her dying dog lay on the veterinary table, limp as a rag doll, unable to move, as if falling off the table would mean the death of her. Helpless and immobile, the aged and beaten dog continued to stare up at her, as if asking for an escape, anything to end her pain and misery. The dog’s coat was matted--mud and rocks flecked all across her misshapen frame. Blood and mud merged together across the mangled and clearly broken ribcage. All would have been fine, but the deed had been done, the dog had become frantic, the car had been too quick on its path.

* * *

“Maggie!” Grace exclaimed with glee as her pudgy four year old hands grasped her new pet’s golden fur. The puppy plopped right into her lap, a little fur ball of a thing, all wrapped up and soon engulfed by the excited child’s warm embrace. Smiling as she patted at the curiously soft mane, Grace was glad to have received her new friend and soon to be life long companion, though little she knew of it.

The Turner parents looked down lovingly at their little girl, hoping a puppy like Maggie was just the right gift. All they desired was her contentment, and if a dog should be part of that, then so it would be. Grace had been asking for a dog of her own since she could talk. Each time she saw one, or even a photograph or drawing, her eyes would immediately roll up to her mother or father, her finger outstretched, a look of desire sweeping across her small face. She wanted a puppy, any puppy. Any pile of fur that could keep her company and play tag or hide and go seek would make the cut for Grace. But her parents would have none of it. They went to great lengths to find the perfect puppy for their little angel. Searching all sorts of breeds and sizes, they finally came across the golden-doodle now nestled in Grace’s lap. It was high esteemed and known for its loyalty and friendliness, exactly what they wanted for their daughter. And so Maggie was brought into the Turner family, high spirited and full of life, the puppy of Grace’s dreams.

As such, Maggie and Grace became an immediate pair. One never went where the other did not. Throughout her childhood, if Grace went over to the neighbors to play, so did Maggie. If she had a birthday or a sleepover, Maggie was always present. The puppy even accompanied her to soccer practice and any activities she chose to participate in. They were inseparable. Even when Grace’s childhood days had come and gone, her loyal golden-doodle still remained right at her side. Lying at her feet while she did homework, following her trustily on her frequent walks around the nearby park, Maggie was always there. For 14 straight years she was there, ready to nestle her head in Grace’s lap or lay at the end of her bed when sleep called.

* * *

But soon that fateful day came. With rain falling restlessly upon the roof, Grace had let Maggie out to enjoy the evening shower before summoning her to her daily supper at five o’ clock sharp. Bounding out the door, though maybe not as gracefully as she used to, Maggie went barging into the steady curtain of water, barking as she went. Grace shut the oak door quickly behind her pet to block out the rain, returning to the family room and the invitingly worn couch she had been set up on with a new book. Engrossed in the story, Grace’s thoughts immediately drifted away in imagination as the clock in the kitchen continued to tick closer and closer to five. Reading rapidly, her eyes skimmed the print, hungrily taking it in. Stopping occasionally to sip her mug of steaming hot chocolate, she delved further and further into the books plot, taking in the scene, the themes, the characters. Soon it was five, then five fifteen. Taking one more moment to guzzle the last of her chocolate drink, Grace’s eyes flashed towards the clock across from her. Eyes widening as they read the time, five twenty, Grace jolted from her content position on the pillows, book strewn on the floor and forgotten.

Racing to the door and flinging it open, Grace stared into the falling torrents, creases forming across her now perspiring brow. “Maggie!” she called frantically, “Maggie come!” But through the rain, the dog was nowhere in sight. Searching, her eyes shifting back and forth across her yard and the street before it, Grace thought what a fool she had been to lose track of time so easily. Calling out once more, she hoped Maggie could hear her voice through the rain and wind as a lump began to rise in her throat.

Then, Grace heard a faint bark carry from across the street. Through the mire she could make out the shape of her golden-doodle, getting closer as Grace continued to yell her name. As the dog neared, it was clear that she was frightened by the growing storm. With the whites of her eyes peeking out from her lids and her paws clattering feverishly upon the ground, Maggie finally made it to the street, listening only for her owner’s cry.
But to the left side of her, headlights came into view, headlights of a car that was traveling much too fast. Immediately noticing the blaring lights, Maggie hesitated, confused as to what was going on. This hesitation was held a moment too long. Brakes screeched, lights flashed and then, Thud.

* * *

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Grace smoothed her aging companion’s ear with her soiled hand. Staring down at what she had made of her beloved dog, all she could do was cry. Maggie was within her last moments of life, her insides and out left unfixable by the car that had hit her. Lying on the vet table, Maggie took great effort to draw in and exhale each catch of air. Her breaths were heavy, each one causing her to choke and wheeze. The pain in Maggie’s eyes was inevitable, and she peered up at Grace, as if pleading with her to make it stop.

Grace knew this was the last time she would be with her childhood playmate, her girlhood friend, her life long companion. Reflecting back on Maggie’s life, Grace knew it had been a good one--a life full of joy and happiness, full of love and loyalty. If there was a content dog, Maggie would sure be the first one that came to mind. She had a full life, one that did her justice. Maggie would always be remembered and missed, but it was inevitable that her time had come to go.

Staring up into Grace’s brimming eyes for one last time, Maggie’s stomach heaved up and down, slowing with each breath. Golden coat mangled and torn, blood and mud soiling her once perfect frame, none of that mattered now. Grace continued to pat her faithful friend on the head, rubbing the fur between her eyes and around her ears, just the way she liked it. Soon Maggie’s eyes flickered as the life fell from them, and with one last sigh, they closed. Then with one more trying exhale, Grace let her go.

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