Kenny

Up and down. Up and down. Cough, cough. Repeat. Tears fill my eyes as I watch my best friend struggle for each breath. His black fur sways in the slight breeze from the vent, as I look down at him. As he coughs again, my hand instinctively reaches out to comfort him. The lump in my throat makes it hard to talk. The doctor stands near us, her voice quietly explaining what I can do to make Kenny’s last few days comfortable.

…Liver cancer…terminal…a few days left…Repeat over and over in my mind. For some unknown reason, I cannot comprehend what the doctor just told me. I know I should say something, anything, but I can’t. My hand runs over Kenny’s body. The nerves in my hands tell my brain that I am feeling his ribs. After a few pets, with tears cascading down my face, I turn to the doctor.

“I just want to take him home, please.” It’s hard to say. The words get caught in my throat, and the sniffling makes it hard for anyone to understand what I’m saying. Amazingly, the doctor is able to understand my request. She places a hand on my shoulder and looks at me with a look that tells me she has had to tell a pet owner this before.

Taking the blanket I had wrapped around Kenny when we came in, I scoop him up gently, swaddling him like a baby. Briefly, my mind goes back to the easier days when wrapping Kenny in a blanket meant that we were playing “Peasant Woman”. My best friend’s daughter had thought that Kenny looked like a peasant woman begging for money when he was wrapped up like a blanket. Kenny loved playing “Peasant Woman” with everyone even if he had just met them. Kenny just loves people.

Carefully I take my purse. As I’m leaving the room, I mumble something that sounds like a “Thank you” to the doctor. As I walk through the lobby to my car, I am unable to hear anything anyone is saying. All I care about at the moment is getting Kenny home where he can be comfortable. Starting the car, I look down at Kenny, curled up on his pillow on the passenger seat. A fresh round of tears erupts from my eyes. I wipe them away immediately, not wanting to cry while I drive. I start my car, and with one last glance at Kenny in the passenger seat, head for home.

Pulling into the driveway, I can see Millie, my rambunctious baby Pomeranian, jumping up on the couch. Her tail wags energetically. I can tell that she thinks Kenny is home to play. As I stare at her through the thin sheet of glass that separates her from us, a few tears escape. Millie has always had Kenny with her. Gathering Kenny up, I make my way into the house.

Barks greet Kenny and I as we enter the house. I lay Kenny down on the dog bed I bought for him a few years ago. The blue fleece material is worn and tearing in places, but it is Kenny’s favorite place to lie. Millie jumps excitedly, snapping playfully at Kenny. Her attempts to play are met with coughs and a look of helplessness from Kenny.

Sitting on the couch, I look at my two dogs. They are like my babies. Millie sits across from Kenny in her pink fleece bed. She stares at him with her big, almost black eyes. I had noticed a few months after I got Millie that her and Kenny’s eyes were the same shade of almost-black. It was too dark to be considered brown, but too light to be considered black. Kenny stares right back at Millie. I can tell that he wants to play. He hasn’t played in weeks. Now, I know why. Liver cancer is taking all his energy.

After a few minutes of watching him, Millie becomes bored and prances over to me. I let her outside and go to sit with Kenny. His eyes stare at me, pleading to end the pain he is in. As I stare into his eyes, I remember when my grandmother died of cancer. I went to the hospital everyday to be with her. When she finally passed, I was devastated. Although I was only three at the time, I can still distinctly remember my grandmother.
Kenny’s situation is different. He has been with me for four years. Those four years have been the happiest of my life. Running with him at the park, playing fetch in the backyard, taking him on walks in the woods. I know that soon those times are going to be a memory that I may think of on a day when I am least expecting it. Suddenly, I know that I have to end Kenny’s suffering. Ending his pain will not just end his suffering, but Millie and mine as well.
Staggering to a stand, I grab the phone and call the veterinarian clinic. Over the phone, I arrange to have Kenny put to sleep the next day. I figure that the sooner I can get him out of his pain, the better. I look down at him while I am on the phone. His eyes look up at me. For a brief moment, I imagine that I see a look of knowing in his eyes. It is almost as if he knows that soon he will be out of his misery.
That night, I sleep on the bed, Kenny and Millie snuggled together by me. I hardly sleep. For what seems like hours, I look at my dogs. Neither seems to understand that tomorrow things will be different. I scheduled the appointment for in the morning; just a few minutes after the clinic opens. I did this because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go all day knowing that my dog was going to be put down.
As the sun peaks over the mountains near my house, I rise and prepare for the day. I let Millie out to go the bathroom. While she is outside, I give Kenny a sponge bath. There is no way my dog is going out a dirty dog! When Millie comes back in, I let her play with Kenny. She tugs on his ear and pulls his tail, just like she did when she was younger. I smile as I watch them. It is just like before Kenny got cancer. He bats playfully at her with his front paw. It seems like he knows that this is the last time he will see her and he is making an effort to make it easy. I know that I am probably just imagining it.
When it is time to leave, I pet Millie and tell her I will be back later. I shut and lock the front door and head to the car, Kenny in my arms. The drive to the vet is difficult. I have to pull over a few times to stop the crying. I pull into the nearest parking space as we arrive at the vet. Picking Kenny up gently, I make my way into the lobby. The receptionist knows who I am. After weeks of coming here for test, the entire staff knows Kenny and me.
I sign a few papers at the front desk and go to sit in the uncomfortable plastic chairs that occupy the lobby. When the doctor comes out and asks me to bring Kenny back, I break down again. I have requested to be back with Kenny when they euthanize him.
In the back room, I set Kenny on the table. The doctor hooks up a few IV’s. Turning to me, he says that if I would like some time alone, now would be the time. I watch him leave and turn to Kenny. I haven’t prepared myself for this moment, even though I knew I should.
“Kenny, baby, I love you. I promise all this pain is going to end soon. Everything will be okay. Millie and I will be okay. And you will be okay. And…and…” The words seem to spill out easily at first. Soon they are choked off by my crying. I hold Kenny for the last time.
The doctor comes back a few minutes later. He brings me a box of tissues and gives me a hug. Most people would find his weird, but to me it’s comforting. I stand where Kenny can see me as the doctor injects the euthanasia drug. It takes a few seconds to kick in but soon I can see Kenny relaxing. With one last breath, Kenny closes his eyes and I know that his pain is gone.
Carefully, the doctor wraps Kenny up in his favorite blanket I brought. I decided to have Kenny cremated. I take his body with me to the cremation center. While they are cremating him and putting him in an urn, I cry in the lobby. One of the receptionists comes out with the urn. On the outside is Kenny’s paw print. Around the bottom, they were able to attach his collar. I take the urn and thank the woman. Getting in the car, I return to my house where Millie is waiting. Inside, I place the urn on the mantel of my fire place. As I look down at Millie, I can see she is confused. I pick her up to show her the urn. After she has sniffed it, I take her to the couch and begin trying to explain to my one remaining dog, that her best friend, and mine, is gone.





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