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Bye, Nick This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The sun smiled down on the driveway, and the wind kissed the heat off my sweaty face. My brother glared back, his flushed face screwed up in concentration, ready for the next pitch. I rotated the wiffleball in my hand, squeezing my fingers against the holes, ready to throw my knuckle ball. A soft whistle emanated from the ball as it left my hand, and, with a blur of yellow and a loud whack, the ball screamed back at me. I caught it in my bare hand.

I tossed my brother the ball. It was my turn at bat. Normally we would have said something to each other, but not today. Today, there was no bright sun, and for us the breeze was akin to a hurricane. Today we played wiffleball not for pleasure, but for distraction from grief.

As the neighbors began to arrive at 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. At 17, he had lost his hearing and most of his sight, but he was still grateful for every day. Yet today was his last. With grief in our hearts my family had agreed it was time 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 5:30 my brother, father, and I left the house before the vet arrived. We all said our good-byes to Nick, who was now back in the kitchen. The tears that streamed down my face dripped onto his nose. He munched happily on the almonds I gave him, unaware of the pain of the boy kneeling above him. His eyes, a dull brown, were like magnets for my blue ones. I kissed his nose and the tears flowed again as I said, “Bye, Nick. Grandpa’s gonna walk you now.” I had to tear myself away, wiping my eyes and grabbing my car keys.

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

We must have looked like robots getting out of the car and marching to the backyard. Mom was sitting in the grass crying next to a bundle of white fabric. He looks so small, I thought, and the floodgates behind my eyes opened again, temporarily blinding me. As a family, we bore Nick to the hole near the rock wall. My dad lowered him in. We crowned him with flowers as we stood around the hole. The sheet around him matched his coat perfectly.

My mom graced him with a few words, and then my father and I began to bury him. Mom offered to take the shovel, but I shook her off. I was determined to bury him, 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 part. A final tear landed on the blanket, and I gently slid the dirt from the shovel onto his head.

We placed flowers on the mound that now covered our faithful pet. We stood around his grave, earth now separating us from a dog that hadn’t been able to bear to be apart from us in life. People claim that they have great pets, but I know I had the greatest. I will never forget Nick, and though the flowers have wilted, and no more telltale white hair clings to the rugs, he still walks in my heart.

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





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Jourdan S. said...
Mar. 14, 2009 at 8:32 pm:
this was really good. made me cry.
 
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layla-clapton said...
Mar. 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm:
That was a very touching artical. I could see everything happening--you have a great writing style.
 
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Twilight Grey said...
Feb. 27, 2009 at 2:13 pm:
It was extremely sad, and I appreciate that you put it up so other people could understand too. I have only imagined this happening to me and I could never imagine the grief.
 
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foreverblissx0245 said...
Jan. 18, 2009 at 8:54 pm:
This was so wonderfully and eloquently written. One and a half years ago, my dog also had to be put down, at the age of eight. And it's comforting to know that there are people who can relate to the emotional time period that follows the loss of a pet.
 
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Nica said...
Dec. 23, 2008 at 11:51 pm:
I had a golden retriever named Taylor who was put to sleep almost 2 years ago after we found a tumor on her.That article was so close to my own feelings it brought me back to that horrible day.I think i was one of the best things i have ever read
 
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