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Numbness, that’s what I feel. A cold nothing that is deep within my blood. Not much has mattered these last few weeks. They’ve gone in a blur. Even time is against me. The meaning of what is to go down on this normal Tuesday will emotionally scar me forever. The truth in the next few moments has invaded my mind. The shadow it has temporarily become is looming over me, waiting until it’s the right time to strike. The past 2 weeks have led up to 3 living beings in a small room with a long medical table against the back corner. My dog, myself and the slightly graying dark haired man in a white lab coat with dark pants.
The man is speaking. The combination of his robotic voice and the meaningless words he’s saying makes the situation even more depressing. Doesn’t he care? Does he not know what is going to happen? I look at Bear, my dog and family. He’s lying on the table on his side. His mangy orange fur isn’t as bright as the day I adopted him, but that’s what age does to you. His huge black eyes stare at me as he asks “What’s wrong master? Why does my chest hurt? Will you fix it?” I want to say “Nothing is wrong Bear. You don’t have to worry. I’ll make it better,” but I can’t because I’d be lying. I don’t look at Bear again. The man has finally shut his voice off.
“Are you ready?” he asks, his voice just as emotionless. Why is he asking me? Shouldn’t he be asking his patient? Ignoring my own questions, I nod. My voice has been gone for weeks. He fills a needle with a clear liquid. It’s not your fault. There’s nothing you could have done. He won’t suffer after this. It’s the right thing to do. The thoughts come, but I absolutely refuse to listen to those leeches. I finally meet Bear’s eyes. I wanted to remember this depressing moment for some unknown reason. I recognize the little ball of fire I got at a pet store eleven years ago on Main Street. He has that knowing look. Like one of those look of knowing without actually understanding anything. How can he know what’s about to happen? Nonetheless, I hear his final questions. “Why master? What did I do wrong?” The needle goes into his back leg. His eyes slide shut. His light snoring is the only sound in the room. This will be the last time I will hear it. The man looks at me. I nod again as I stroke Bear’s fur. The man gets the next needle ready. My hand stops over Bear’s heart as he puts the needle in. I watch as my dog’s breathing slows and I feel his heart come to a stop. “Why master? What did I do wrong?” His last message echoes in my head.
“You can pick up his ashes this Friday.” The man says. His voice seems relieved. The monster! I walk out without a word. The drive home is silent. As are the next two hours sitting at my desk in my small apartment. I am thinking.
“Why do I feel so empty right now? I know I’m going to miss you. You were with me for 11 years of my life for Christ’s sake! Should I really feel this bad? Why?” The strange word echoes in the new black hole I call my mind. I remember a quote by Louis Sabin. “A dog doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, big or small, not popular, not a good joke-teller, not the best athlete, nor the best-looking person. To your dog, you are the greatest, the smartest and the nicest human being who was ever born. You are his friend and protector.” The words seem to fit this situation don’t they? Bear was always like that. Always happy, even if I yelled at him, he would just come up and lick me like it was nobody’s business. Yet this feeling, this depression, is appalling. This is a guilty feeling of a murder that has been done by my own hand. But that is impossible. That heartless vet killed him. The heartless veterinarian murdered the happy-go-lucky Bear James. He did it. You gave him the permission. The whisper floats past me. They told me he was in a lot pain! You should know I can’t live with the only person I love being in pain! What if it didn’t matter to him? What if he could have handled the pain? You know what getting old feels like; you’ve learned to tolerate a certain amount of pain. What if he just wanted to spend a little more time with you? Just wanted another happy moment with his master? Just one tiny, insignificant moment is too much to ask for? The voice paused and I soaked up its words. I did kill him, didn’t I? I signed those deadly papers and put my beloved dog on that dreaded medical table. The voices tried to soothe me in that room. They tried with worthless sentences like “its better this way.” I pondered my increasingly dark thoughts. I killed him. He loved me and I killed him. I murdered him without reason. It hurts. Why? They repeat over and over. Time is nothing now. Something is laughing at me, I can feel it. I slip into the dark abyss others call sleep and what I now call torture.
I jerk awake. I hate my nightmares. They’re always so vivid and frightening to me. I’m sure it would seem silly to anyone other than Bear and I. It’s not long after that thought that the darkness claims my heart and the ache starts again. Why? The echo continues on from the day before. Why? Why? Why? Why? I knew I had to work, but I don’t know if I could even if I wanted to. I eventually got ready and drove to my dingy little office across town.
I come home after a hard day at evading my emotions. The voices don’t care about my life do they? They whisper to me constantly, telling me it’s my fault and that I will have to live with Bear’s blood on my hands forever. Leave me be! I want to shout. I know it’s my fault! I know I did it! I did it! I yell at them. They finally silence themselves. I walk to the couch and drop down.
“I know I did it. As much as an inhumane act as it is, I did it. I don’t know why it hurts. I’m sure I’ll never know. I just know that it burns inside and it feels like I’m stabbed outside. Can’t the knowledge of it torture me enough? Can I try to heal? Will the peace of mind that others feel elude me forever? I know I have failed. I failed as a dog owner, a friend, a protector and as a normal guy trying to live a normal life. This is all that I know for sure. Please let me live with what little knowledge I have.” The voices are almost silent in that moment. They are dull murmurs that I can’t quite listen in on. I fall into unconsciousness shortly after I notice the nearly quiet atmosphere in my head.
No! I jerk awake for the third morning in a row. I’m drenched in sweat and I can’t catch my breath. The shadow wastes no time in claiming me. I consider it an acquaintance now. It follows me as I get dressed, get in the car and go off to work.
I walk in the door. It’s silent. Something stabs at my heart and I realize that there is no more Bear to greet me when I get home from now on, or ever again. I lay on the couch and drown in self-pity and sadness until I go to sleep. I can’t tell the difference anymore anyway. Let the depression claim whatever sanity I have left. I don’t care anymore. Nothing matters. Not the world, not me, not the knowledge that I have to work tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
It has been a few months since Bear passed. My life has been a broken record, repeating everyday. Get up, got to work, get home, think, sleep, repeat. It still hurts, but I’ve adjusted to it. The load of pain is slowly getting bearable. I’m learning to accept the inevitable. I will never know why I feel so much pain, mentally and physically. Nor will I be able to shake off the guilt and sadness. All that I know is that I loved Bear, he loved me and I showed no mercy in killing him. I have to move on.