I’m wearing the same shirt today that I was wearing on Saturday. Today it somehow feels different. Saturday it was covered in my tears and sweat, quite literally. I had to put one of my dogs to sleep. She was fourteen years old and was slowly dying in front of my eyes. I’ve had her for the last two or so years. I was supposed to just watch her for a couple weeks and her owners never came back to get her. I had known the day was coming. I just kept putting it off. I wanted to keep her around for just one more day. Just one more week. Just one more month. But it was getting harder and harder for her to get around. She was barely eating. She didn’t seem happy anymore. And I am a quality of life kind of person. If one doesn’t have quality of life, I think it is pointless to go on living. To breathe is not enough. At least not enough for me.
So Saturday morning I took her for a nice long walk. Her last walk, before putting her to sleep. I’ve been going through a rough patch financially so I had to take her to the local animal shelter and have them do it for me. The upside to it is that they did it for free. The downside is that I wasn’t allowed to be in the room with her as she took her last breath. So when they asked me if I wanted them to dispose of the body, I felt guilty. I already sent her to die alone, I wasn’t going to let her be tossed in a pile of other dead dogs to be burned or whatever they do. So I told them I would take her with me.
And then I waited. I sat outside crying on a bench as they put Asia down. The shoulder area of my shirt was wet with tears. I couldn’t stop crying and I just kept wiping my face on my shirt. One of the girls who works at the shelter came out and brought me some tissues. I guess she couldn’t handle me snotting all over my t-shirt anymore. After about 30 minutes, they came out and told me I could pull around the back to get her body.
They rolled her out on a cart, wrapped in plastic and covered in a sheet. They lifted her into my car and buckled her up.
I hadn’t really planned this far ahead when I woke up that morning knowing that I needed to put her out of her misery. I thought I was just going to take her there and leave her and go. Out of sight, out of mind. But that was selfish of me to think about doing that. And foolish of me to think that I would actually be able to do it.
So instead, I drove to Mayo Garden Center on Kingston Pike and walked in half covered in tears and death and I bought a shovel and a pack of wildflowers. And then I cried all the way home with a dead dog buckled into the passenger seat of my little Honda.
Digging a grave is not as easy as they make it look in every mobster movie you’ve ever watched. Especially in the middle of the day, in the middle of the South, in the middle of a heat wave. The first few inches of dirt was that good soil. It came right up. But then after I got a few more inches down, that red clay reared its ugly head and it became more and more difficult to dig. Soon I was covered in sweat and tears. I could hardly catch my breath from crying. But I had to keep digging because every time I looked up, I could see the sheet wrapped body waiting for me to finish. I had to ask for help from a friend digging the hole because I was exhausted. So we alternated a couple times and he would dig while I went inside and cooled off for twenty minutes. Eventually, the hole was dug and we laid her to rest.
The whole process was kind of cathartic. It seemed like it carried me through the grieving process much quicker than if I had left her at the shelter and let them get rid of her body. So I’m glad I brought her home. I know that her last couple years with me were probably some of the best and most stable of her long life. And I’m not looking forward to the day I have to send my other two to the Rainbow Bridge.