A great pet

January 3, 2008
By Judson Monroe, Essex, CT

The sun smiled down on the driveway, the wind kissing the heat off of my sweaty face. My brother glared back, his flushed face screwed up in concentration, ready for the next pitch. I rotated the wiffle ball in my hand, squeezing my fingers against the holes, ready to throw my knuckle ball. A quiet whistle emanated from the ball as it threw from my hand, and in a blur of yellow and a loud WHACK! the ball screamed back towards me. With a loud slap I caught it in my bare hands, and my brother tossed the bat down and I gave the ball to him to take my at bats. We probably would have said something to each other, but not today. Today, there was no bright sun, and the breeze was akin to a hurricane gust for my brother and I. Today, we played wiffle ball not for pleasure, but for distraction from grief.

As the neighbors started to come to the house, we stopped our game to take pictures. All the subjects in these pictures were random, save for one constant. Our golden retriever, Nicholas, must have been bemused by all the attention he was getting today. At seventeen years old, he had lost his hearing and most of his sight, but he was still grateful for every day that he was alive. Yet today was his last. It had been with grief in our hearts that we had agreed to put him to sleep. “He’s just being a good sport now,” reasoned Mom. “It would be selfish of us to leave him like this much longer.”

At five thirty my brother, father, and me left the house to go for a ride while the vet came. We all said our goodbyes to Nick, who was now back in the kitchen. The tears streamed down my face, and dripped onto his nose. He munched happily on the almonds I gave him, apparently unaware of the pain of the boy kneeling above him. His eyes, a dull brown, were like magnets to my blue ones. I kissed his nose and the tears flowed again, saying, “Bye Nick. Grandpa’s gonna walk you now.” I had to yank myself away, wiping my eyes and grabbing my car keys.

We drove down to the river, and then to the baseball field. My dad and I played catch until my brother called us to the car, “Mom says it’s over. We can go home.”

We must have looked like robots getting out of the car. We marched, with empty purpose, towards the back yard. Mom was crying on the grass, and next to her was a bundle of white fabric. ‘He looks so small’ I thought, and the floodgates behind my eyes opened again, temporarily blinding me. We bore him as a family to the hole dug in the back of the yard, near the rock wall, our unshakable companion. My dad dropped into the grave, and lowered him to the bottom. We crowned him with flowers of yellow and purple, and we all stood above the hole. The sheet around him was the perfect match to his white coat. My mom graced him with a few words, and then my father and I started to bury him. Mom offered to take the shovel from me, but I shook her off. I was determined to bury him, determined to physically pay for every happy moment he had given me, that I might have taken for granted. My shovel stopped, hovering over his head, the last exposed area of white left. A final tear landed on the white blanket, and I gently slid the dirt from the shovel, so it transferred as opposed to fell onto his head.

We placed a vase of flowers on the mound of dirt that now covered our faithful pet. We stood around his grave, earth now separating us from a dog that couldn’t bare to be apart from us in life. People say that they have great pets. I won’t argue that, obviously every one’s pet is the dearest to them. Yet I know that I had the greatest dog. He never bit anyone, and only ever barked towards the end of his life when he was lost and needed someone to find him. I won’t ever forget him, and though the flowers in the vase have wilted, and there is no more telltale white hair clinging to rugs, he still walks in my heart.

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