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The Longest Night
Waiting was a long, arduous ordeal. The curious stares of other dogs and cats filled the waiting room. It had been quite a hassle getting Zoey to walk across the dark parking lot, up a single step, and into the vet’s waiting room. Not that it was her fault; I knew that. But it was what seemed uncertain, yet ever ominous in the back of my head., that gnawed away at me. What I was sincerely afraid to acknowledge was why.
Why, after seeming to recover the day before, Zoey had suddenly plunged into a state of depression; why her interest in food, her interest in the world around her, and her interest in my family and me utterly dried up. She could barely walk, and seemed to sway and teeter with the uneasiness of a drunken person. Her head was generally pointed at the ground, eyes failing to make contact with those around her. There were no signs of major disease, trauma, or sickness. Nothing to indicate that her time may have come. Nothing except old age.
Zoey became a part of the family when she was just a puppy, in February of 1999. I was 4 years old. She was my best friend until I started school, whereupon I would still look forward to her playful antics after the school day. She loved to play fetch, as most dogs do, and also loved to roll around, go on walks, and sniff everything and everyone within her sense of smell. When my parents and I went on vacation in the summer, she would delightfully head over to my grandparents, where she would learn that extra food came pretty easy there. She loved people, and would often approach a stranger, plop down in front of them, and stick her head up, waiting to be petted.
As I got older, she became more of a companion to me than I realized at the time. Coming home from middle school and letting myself into the house, it was always welcoming to have her sitting or lying right near the door. There was always a sense of love, as she would follow me around the house as I did my homework. She was truly becoming a constant companion, and she became more to me than I ever thought. No matter what kind of day you had or what kind of mood you were in, she gave you her unconditional loyalty and affection. Yard work became a little more bearable when she would trot over to accompany you after doing her business. When I got older and started mowing the lawn, and as she got to be a “senior” dog, she always somehow managed to lie down in front of the spot of grass I was about to cut, and didn't give a crap either. And though her days of streaking after the ball were coming to an end, she still couldn’t resist when I would stop the mower, pick up her ball, and roll it over to another part of the yard, usually where I was already finished my work.
The years in Zoey’s life gradually increased, and, at age 12, she was still enjoying life. No major health problems except the usual joint paint that accompanies old age and the occasional stomach aches that came from digging in the yard and eating something she wasn’t suppose to. The only real change in her lifestyle was that she slept more.
Right before her downturn, Zoey had experienced some kidney problems due to an allergic reaction from a vaccine. She spent some time at the vet, and when her kidneys were nearly normal again, she came home for two days. But she never regained her former personality that we all knew and loved. She was sluggish and unsociable.
The vet called us into her office; I nearly had to pick Zoey up to get her to move. As we sat down and the vet closed the door, Zoey slumped her back and stared at the corner. She wouldn’t respond to our words our or our attempts to comfort her. The vet checked her temperature, then the room got pretty quite. The vet explained that in this point at Zoey’s life, the best thing for her would be the same thing I dreaded the most. As I came to a realization of what was going to happen, I looked down at Zoey and noticed with great sadness that she was still facing the wall. The vet made some preparations, and I urged Zoey over to a blanket on the floor. Her legs gave out and she let out a poof as she landed on the blanket. I was crying. It wasn’t something I wanted, but it wasn’t something I could control. It just started. The vet gave us a minute to be with her, and I tried to look right at her face. Her eyes already seemed to be closing up. I scratched her ears, rubbed her belly, and just tried everything to make it better.
She just didn’t respond.
At last, the vet began to give Zoey the first injection. She sighed a little bit, and I put my head down to her level. I tried to look right at her as my hand was still on her head. Briefly, she seemed to notice me. The vet then gave her the final injection. My heart was racing and Zoey began to breath heavily. It lasted about 7-8 seconds. Zoey’s belly rose, dropped, and then didn’t rise again.
Her tail lifted and gave out 2 thumps. She hadn’t lifted her tail for the past 3 days. Then it silently curled up.
After all had been said and done, and my final words of comfort given to my beloved companion, I walked out of the vet’s office, took the step out the door, and let out a sigh. I wasn’t sure, and still haven’t figured it if it was a sigh of relief or shame. Either way, I would barely sleep for almost the next week.
My hands were shaking when I wrote this, and thought I would just have to stop after a while. I was stumped on how to explain the personality and friendship of such a wonderful companion. How do you communicate such love through words on paper, without an example to show?
Losing a pet is losing a family member, as many people can attest to. Sometimes you want to scream; sometimes you just want to pound the walls. But what makes it even harder is that you have to have trust not just in your companion but also in yourself. A dog can’t explain its feelings to you; Zoey couldn’t explain how she felt about our decision. That’s what makes love so important; the idea that a pet isn’t just a pet-its a friend and sometimes a burden, a comforter and sometimes an annoyance. No matter what you do, its love and loyalty will always be there. You just have to have confidence and realize it. Because that same confidence is what helped us make our decision. We like to think Zoey would agree.
Through writing things like this, your not just telling someone else. You’re explaining things to yourself, things you may never have wanted to discuss again. And when you’re done, its left for someone else. It lives past you and your problems. It lives for a solution, for a guide, and for remembrance.
Zoey, February 1999- October 2011
A companion I won’t soon forget.