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The Last Night
His cold, white, milky eyes search for something more than the life that was in front of him. Sam was eleven when we put him down. His fur was aged with white instead of the dull yellow it once presented. He had brittle bones that gave out as they turned into dust and his white, balding stomach was a minefield of benign tumors.
He slept for hours on end, only coming up for air when he heard the soft clunk of his food into his lime green, hard, plastic food dish. He soon stopped caring about the poorly strategized attacks that the fat, black cat botched. His fur glued to everything it laid its hands on. Worst of all, his smile that was once full of jagged, spacey, white teeth was no more than a mouthful of dull, yellowed, stubs that pulled into a permanent frown.
The sight was too painful to watch anymore. This was the worst night he has ever had, and I knew in my heart, heavy with sadness, that with time his health was only going to spiral downward. He layed down on a brightly painted blanket that wasn’t very soft. Near him, was his silver, metal water dish, full of water because all he wanted was to eat crusty, dry kibble. He knew it was his time, so he let me inhale his fur once more, which reeked of sick dog smell. I snuggled him for hours knowing this was going to be the last time I ever would. I tried not to cry, so I wouldn't upset him any further but my traitor tears couldn’t help but well up in my eyes and downpour, zigzagging against my cheeks. He groaned in pain trying to lie down as I watched his joints twitch like they were high on caffeine. That night his eyes slowly drained from his milk chocolate brown to diluted milky white eyes that looked sad and miserable. His blocky head making spirals everywhere as he tried to see the sights one last time, desperately failing. After hours, no one could stand it anymore. Soothing his big, disintegrated bones wasn’t helping. My mom, my sister, my brother, and I sat numbly on the airy, soft, gray couch.
“Mom. Are we going to have to put him down tonight?”
“Honey, we’ll see.” she broke in between her tears staring at the brown mantel that lazily positioned a silver picture frame with the word family inscribed all over it.
“On a scale of 1-10, how likely is it that we’re going to have to put him down?” I asked choking back my sadness that lumped in my throat.
“An eight.” she said softly.
I went to the bathroom, slammed the door shut, then locked it with heaving struggle. I slowly leaned against the brown wall with white speckles on it in various places and leveled down until I was plopped down into the shaggy, dark blue carpet. I put my knees to my face and cried, my body shaking uncontrollably. My breaths short, never able to fully grasp the air around me. I don’t remember how long I cried for but when I went to look into the mirror I didn’t recognize who I was. My eyes were red and puffy and my cheeks stung from the salty tears. My head felt like it was ready to explode from the pounding of rainfall that my eyes produced, not only that my heart that was always warm and fuzzy from the love Sam gave me, was now empty. It felt like it had evaporated and filled with cold, hard ice that would never melt. I positioned myself on the counter and took a deep breath. In. Out. In. Out. I slowly unlocked the door.
I positioned myself next to Sam once again and wrapped my arms tightly against him. I kissed him delicately as not to have another petal fall. His loud breathing was sound against my breaking heart. The last night I had with Sam I needed one last memory to share with him, my mom took a picture of us, and I took around a gazillion selfies even though I had no intents of remembering this night.
“It’s time.” someone said but I didn't quite register those words.
I slowly waddled to get a jacket for this cold January night. We quickly grabbed a striped black and white blanket and pushed him onto it because he was too heavy to carry and we didn’t want to pain him any further. My eyes red and puffy from crying hours on end, hesitantly opened the stained, white screen door knowing this was going to be the last time that his presence was going to be at home. Carefully, my brother, my mom, and Wes stepped down each stair as Sam winced in pain. My sister opened the trunk of our white Mitsubishi Outlander. The back, black cushioned seats were folded down so Sam could be as comfortable as he possibly could. The cold air bit at my lips as the harsh wind howled in my ears. The stars danced happily against the murky black, inky sky.
I rode with my mom I sat in the soft, gray seats with crumbs squishing against me. The ride felt like only seconds as I watched the trees, and buildings blur by. I stared vacantly out the window as I heard my mom and sister discuss quietly. Their faces saddened by pained thoughts. We pulled into a twenty-four emergency vet because it was around 10:40 in the dead of night. The building looked to be fairly modern, built from brown bricks. A sign flashed brightly against the breezy night advistersting the clinic. A younger looking women with her light brown hair braided to the side and her pink scrubs with black bottoms came running up to us the moment felt only too real. My mom told her about the situation, and she ran back to the building. While we were waiting the night air was silent, only disturbed by our cloudy breath the frost produced. When she came back, she came with the vet and with a metal stretcher that was hard and cold. We gently removed Sam from the trunk onto the stretcher. The motion looked like it pained him as he moaned lightly.
He was whisked into a room where the artificial light was too dim. There were 3 chairs, cushioned in a blue pattern. The floor slightly dusty was gray with a prominent line running through them. The white walls framed one picture. The heat on full blast felt unbearable against my black, puffy coat. There was a long tan counter with a metallic sink and medical supplies neatly spread across it. Up above held simple, white cabinets. Most memorable, a ceramic tissue holder that looked like a yellow Labrador held a plain box of tissues. The room was dead-silent besides light sniffles from everyone. Sam was now pacing nervously, scratching his rough tongue against my face, his breath smelled like old dog kibble, then slowly and carefully moved on to someone else. He came to me the most. As tissues were being passed around Sam bumped into it. The glass shattered and the broken pieces of the ceramic dog clattered on the floor, there was a soft, subtle thump as all of it hit the floor. It reminded me how Sam was going to die, and what that would leave me to be.
After around ten minutes the last of the paperwork was filled and the vet came in. She looked in her thirties with her shorter blond hair. She was wearing black pants too, and her white official looking vet coat. Her assistant came in along with her.
“Putting him down looks to be our only option. There isn’t anything else we can do.” The words ringed in my ear for what seems like hours.
I wasn’t ready for this. I looked around the room. Everyone looked the same--ghost-like. Feeling dead on the inside but only sourcing dry tears, and stuffy noses. I saw behind her silver glasses that tears were slowly streaming down her face. She has only met him for minutes and she already understood how kind his heart was, and how hard this was going to be. She then went on to explain on how she would put him down. She left and let us have our last private moment with him.
“You’re a good boy Sam,” I said softly in his ear.
He licked me roughly in response. He made rounds of everyone in their fluffy coats and jeans. She came in when it seemed appropriate.
“Anyone who would like to step out is welcome to.” she said kindly knowing this was the hardest part of her job.
I forced my feet to walk one step in front of another. I was the only one. All I could do was cry by myself. I breathed in the smell of disinfectant and imagined the needle slowly plunging into Sam’s thick coat of fur. I imagined the sereneness and for a glimmer of a second, I felt relieved. For a fraction of a second, my misery was replaced with happiness knowing how he would be pain-free, and he wouldn’t have to struggle to find the happiness that hummed lazily in the air. I knew it was done when I couldn’t hear the soft pitter-patter of his wrinkled paws against the cool floor.
I forced myself to step in the room that smelled heavily of death once more and I saw him laying on the blue cushion they provided for him. He died at 10:52 PM on January ninth of 2017. His eyes were glassy like they were going to break at any moment. The pain erased from his face, vacant. He gave out one last involuntary twitch and I knew he was gone. Losing the closest relationship you ever had is one of the hardest things that a person has to go through. When people say with time the pain will go away. They are wrong. Losing your best friend is truly one of the most painful experiences a human being has to endure. You’re suffocating slowly in pain that stabs the heart over and over again, and there’s no one to save you this time. You can’t hug the one shoulder (or furry dog) that you so heavily rely on. Yes, as time goes on you try to adjust to not expecting him to bark when you walk in the door, have your sleeping buddy protecting you, or having your face licked off at 6:30 in the morning because he’s starved. Eventually, the pain becomes duller and throbs when you think about him or her, which becomes a little less every day. But you notice now you’re lonelier than ever when you forget that they’re gone and you go home and can’t wait to share your day with them, reality hits, taking your breath away, and the hurt comes hurdling back and you have to start at square once again. When Sam died, for months, I stopped writing short stories, poetry, everything. Nothing inspired me and it didn’t feel right not being able to share my stories to him. I stopped telling people important things or confinding my feelings because they’re not the same as him- their support or concern is not the same and it never will be. He provided me with non-judgement and he seems to be the only one who truly understands me, and gets what I’m going through. I really stopped anything that reminded me of him to avoid further hurt.
So, I did what I always do when I’m sad. I hugged him one last time with all I had. I squeezed him as I felt his broken remains against me. The tears hot against my face as the pain settled in for real. My best friend died and I knew it would never be the same without him. My heart empties as it forgot what the love Sam gave felt like. I knew as time passed the scars would remain unhealed forever. If it did it would heal messily in weird clumps, out of place, which it was. The hug lasted for a minute, I let him go slowly as I wanted him forever. I wanted his warmth to comfort me, knowing this was the worst day of my life. Instead, he was cold against my chest. I knew I wasn’t hugging him anymore, I was wrapping my arms around death.