Desolation ached through every joint, leg muscles tucked neatly beneath her compact body, as she curled silently on the floor. She felt cold heartbreak flow through her sinewy veins, ghost-like; she decided this defined living death. Sobs, whimpers, occasional keening punctuated the lonely load she carried.
Now and again, footsteps, commotion, excited feet and childlike utterances, oohs and ahhs, ending in new life. Not for her. She was loyal beyond description, had been with the same woman for 9 years: a triathlete, they raced up small mountains together. They tackled the biggest hurdle of all as a team, her partner’s breast cancer.
She sat at her partner’s feet during the chemotherapy and radiation treatments, slept on the bed crooked in the woman’s arms when the pain was unbearable and only soft touch could attenuate the grief, rage, at the assailing cells. She was petite, but sturdy, athletic herself, with the heart of an Australian sheep dog and the moves of a herding border collie. She was an abandoned soul who had been saved by the woman’s grace, wisdom, and eye for intelligence, given a life of work and extreme play, a safe place to call home.
Now, her woman had succumbed to the metastatic monster that choked the life out of her organs, and she was alone, aging, unwanted, awaiting (politely now) “euthanasia”.
Who could know this loyal agility dog might have 5 or 6 or 8 years left; she was lithe, well-muscled, could turn on a dime; the grizzled muzzle decried years of hard play, the loyal devoted farm hand? She was continuously passed by for yipping puppies who piddled in the middle of their cages, then went splashing through their mess to greet each random stranger who stuck fingers into cage. She was more cautious: raising ears, turning head, small smile if some sign of interest, maybe a wink, a tentative move towards the gate. Most people thought she was cold. She just wasn’t on parade, wouldn’t sell herself for a circus hound. Her life had had meaning.
She couldn’t think existentially, she was a dog. But there she was on the cage floor waiting to join her woman wherever that was, if there was a place to go. She waited for the days of her life to toll; she waited for the sleep needle.
Shari Elizabeth Berk, written 2008