“Have we been through this with you?” the vet asked.
I shook my head.
“We’ll give her two drugs. One relaxes her, like margaritas. The other stops her heart.”
I looked down at my friend and stroked her silky cheek. Her heart was already on its last beats. That’s why we were here.
“It’s generally over in a few seconds. But, just to prepare you, sometimes there’s a burst of energy at the end. She might bark. She won’t be in pain.”
“Okay,” I said again.
The vet told me a funny story and I laughed, I think.
I kept stroking her cheek and under her chin. She loved that, once. Now she didn’t notice.
That’s a long time, in dog years. That’s a long time in people years, too. We found her when she was still just a puppy. I was in college in Louisiana. I opened the door of our apartment and there she was, a scruffy black lump of fur. I shrieked because I thought she was a rat, and at that point in my life, I was most definitely the kind of girl who shrieked at rats.
But she wasn’t a rat. She was a small, malnourished stray. Her fur was matted, her skin was coming off in clumps, and she had the biggest fleas I had ever seen. And worms, but I didn’t know that yet. We took her in, took her to the vet, who proclaimed that she would live but it would take a while to get her into good health. We named her Annie, after the most famous orphan of all time. I spent the next month telling everyone that no, I hadn’t done that to my dog, and yes, I was feeding her.
At first, she was hyper clingy. I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without her waiting right outside the door. And then, quite suddenly, she became a true puppy. She ate all the seams out of our socks. She tore her toys apart. She discovered a tissue box and how if you take a tissue out, another one pops up, OMG! And, man, was she fast. We used to take her to a field and stand on either end, just so she could run between us, one side of the field to the other, pure joy in her face.
I graduated college. The boyfriend whose apartment I shared became my husband. I went to graduate school and followed that with law school. My sister died and Annie stayed all night on my chest, while neither of us slept.
I had a baby girl.
Annie did not like her.
But she came around.
We left New Orleans and moved to Washington, D.C. I became pregnant with another baby girl. And then, terribly, there was a time when I couldn’t stand to be alone, when I couldn’t eat, and I couldn’t sleep. I paced the bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, waiting for him to come home, knowing he never would.
She paced with me.
When we divorced I cried into her fur.
I got stronger. She got older.
And now here we were, and it was time for us to say goodbye. We were alone, just me and her. In the end, the vet was right. It was quick and painless. I buried my face in her fur.
Goodbye, my sweet friend.
But she was already gone.