Four years ago, the time between Christmas and New Year’s was one of the worst in my life. Emmett was dying and I didn’t know how to save him. Everything hurt him, I could not make him comfortable for more than a few minutes. He wouldn’t stay in the house.
The vet had removed his front leg a year before: sarcoma. And for a while he was okay. Then he got pneumonia and a wracking cough. His breathing went from labored to difficult.
Big dog. Shiny coat. Stupid woman, me, who didn’t know what to do. Even riding in the car hurt him, so I went to the vet alone to get more medicine. It didn’t seem to be working, though he took it with peanut butter every few hours. He had the softest mouth, gently taking the pills from my hand.
He could barely walk around the block. He was only six years old.
On New Year’s Eve I awoke at 4 a.m. Dark. By this time we’d developed a fairly good telepathy. Emmett rarely barked. He only had to stand outside my window for me to ‘hear’ him. But he wasn’t there. I pulled on a jacket and went out to the garage where he’d been resting under a boat. He wasn’t there, either. He wasn’t anywhere in the garage. It felt like the tomb after Jesus had risen. Empty.
I searched the back yard, the front yard. Finally found him up by the sidewalk. He had jumped the fence. He could barely walk or breathe, but he had jumped the fence.
I called the emergency vet. She asked if his lips were blue. “No,” I said. He was still in the front yard, staring through the fence at me in the house. Come on. Let’s go. I knew what he was saying. He was done here. But I wasn’t done. So I ignored him.
The streets were icy. I asked a neighbor whether I could borrow her 4-wheel drive, but Emmett wouldn’t get in. He stood by the back door of my old Toyota, waiting for me to open the door. We were doing this his way.
Emmett sat in the back seat as usual, looking out the window at the sunrise and passing strawberry fields.
His regular doctor wasn’t there, and the one who was wouldn’t see us right away. So Brandy, his favorite vet tech, came in and talked to us, then weighed him. He’d lost 10 pounds in a week. “Fuck,” I said, shocked. She nodded. It was bad. We decided an x-ray was in order.
For some reason, Brandy expected me to walk Emmett back to the x-ray room. Usually he went of his own accord, no trouble. And he was no trouble this time either, but I walked back with them through the hospital and saw him through the door. “Good dog, Emmett.” Then I returned to the little consulting room we’d been in, and shut the door. That was the last time I saw him alive.
Someone yelled, “I need help here,” and running footsteps came from all directions. I started praying. Not that he would live, even then I wouldn’t make bargains with gods, but that he would be okay.
I am loving you, Emmett. I am loving you.
He was the best present of all.
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