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How to Say Goodbye This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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Wake up early in the morning, and don't understand why; realize you forgot to say good-night. Go upstairs from your basement, leaving your sister and friend to sleep after a long night. Shout “Good Morning!” to your mother; wonder if it's going to be a good day.

Feel the world stop when your mother doesn't say good morning back but instead murmurs, “She's looking really sick.” Walk down the hall to say hello to her, thinking it's weird she didn't greet you. Feel the tears come to your eyes as you watch her stomach inflate and deflate; a balloon that can't blow up, and everyone fears is going to pop. Start to feel sick. Bend over and give her a kiss on the top of her head, just like always. Don't shed tears, but look into hers and tell her quietly, “C'mon and stay strong.”

Head back to the kitchen and look at the bagel your mom put in front of you. Play with it. Don't eat it as you listen to your mother and father ­explain what the vet said. Try and ­understand, but realize the words don't make sense or sound good. Think ­optimistically, and try to ignore the worst thoughts in the back of your mind.

Hear the giggles of your friend and sister coming upstairs for breakfast. Listen to them grow quiet as they hear the news. Hear the pain in your sister's voice when she asks “Why, what's wrong?” Hear the story a ­second time. This time be more confused, yet believe that all of a sudden everything seems more real. And then wait.

Go back downstairs when your mom suggests you go and watch some television. Go up and down the stairs like you have a purpose, but it's just to make sure she is still doing okay.

When your mother ­explains she is going to take her to the vet soon, realize your time may be running short. While your mother takes a shower, sit with your dog, and let her head rest in your lap. Look at the pain in her eyes, and wish somehow you could make it all disappear. Think back to your times together. Remember when you and your sister were little and would chase her. Think of the times you would try and be nice to her and give her some of your food, then think how crazy it is that a dog could be so well trained that she didn't take it. Remember when your dad would come home from work and she would race you to see him first. Think of when the baby was born, and remember that your times with her didn't change. Think of all the times when you learned to grow up and always had that someone there to grow up with.

When your mother comes back, follow her and ask a million more questions, even if you think some were already asked. When she tells you she is leaving, do anything to stall her. When nothing seems to work, start to panic.

Realize that your time is short and it looks like good-bye is close. When your dad walks in the room, melt in his arms when he gives you a hug, don't try holding in the tears back anymore. Take his hand as the whole family walks outside.

When she sits by the trunk, feel your stomach turn when she whimpers as your dad lifts her into the car. Feel your world end when your mother tells you to say good-bye. Feel a single tear slide down your check as you stare into her eyes, but smile when you stick out your hand and she places her paw in it, just as she always did when you told her to “shake.” Know it's her way of saying it will all be okay. Let a million thoughts flow through your mind, What am I supposed to do without her? It's not fair she is leaving me. No one will understand like her. But try and force only the positive. When your sisters have their turn, think of the sound ten times louder, piercing your ears. The ringing sounds of a deer being hunted in the tranquil woods. Stand on your front steps, as your mom drives away, and right ­before the car disappears behind ­trees, whisper good-bye under your breath and realize what a bittersweet ­moment it truly is.

As time passes, feel the loss but ­remember what a great dog you had. Know that she may be gone, but not forgotten, and will still be with you forever. Realize your “good” in “good-bye” was what was good for her. Think of how you lived when she was around, and make it a priority to continue with that same life, knowing that's what she would want. And then when your parents decide to get the family another puppy, realize with that good-bye, you must be open for the next hello.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the April 2013 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.





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