I sat in the front seat, gazing at my best friend lying on a sled in the back seat. My dad drove slowly and carefully in order to make sure she did not fall, and to ensure my safety. After all, a five year old should not be sitting in the front seat of a car; however, this was not a typical occasion. My dad appeared glum, although I think he was trying to keep a positive attitude for my sake. In all honesty, I do not believe I came close to truly comprehending the situation until it was all completely over. I was informed by my parents that Lady, my black lab, was being put down. However, between being told “She is going to a better place” and the fact I had never lost anyone before, there was no way for me to understand the situation. There was no way for me to understand I should have hugged her tighter and longer when I got out of the car to say goodbye. There was no way for me to understand I should have kissed her on the head and promised everything would have been okay.
Lady gazed at me with her big brown eyes, her breathing deep and loud. Her breathing had been getting louder after each year, but at least for now, she seemed content. Car rides always made her relaxed and happy, even if she could no longer muster the strength to stand up and peer out the window. I kicked my legs back and forth, reaching my short arm out to touch her. Though I could not reach her body to rub my hands across her belly, I could reach and hold her paw. She was the guardian of my cradle, sleeping in front of me every night as a baby to protect me, as my mom would recollect. Was I not obligated to protect her from death?
I never cried that day, not once. The concept of death, leaving forever, was merely too foreign for me to grasp. My father pulled into my grandma’s driveway. “I’ll see ya at three, Bud. Say goodbye a final time.” I got out of the car and hugged Lady around her neck. I had no idea what to say to someone I loved so much. “Bye Lady,” I whispered into her short, floppy ear. I walked to my grandparents who were waiting for me by the door. They went inside, and I turned as I heard my dad pulling out of the driveway. For a final time, I waved as the car drove too far for me to see, saying goodbye to my first friend.