I recently sent the following piece out to a dog anthology seeking short pieces and it was sent back yesterday with a “form rejection”–that is, they didn’t like it much. This piece was also rejected by Pitkin Review last fall. In my research I have found that publications frown upon pieces lamenting the death of a beloved pet. After all, didn’t Mark Doty write a wonderful book on the topic, Dog Years? But Doty’s book was about so much more than dogs….I have been told by instructors that the piece I am posting here is a little different than most, and does indeed have some merit. I am republishing it here. Perhaps this blog will be its only home.
THE DEATH OF QB
The apartment was cold and dark when I arrived home from the veterinary hospital, and music played softly on the bathroom radio. QB always preferred it that way. Now, it didn’t matter.
I felt like punching something, trashing my apartment, throwing a chair, anything, but it wasn’t anger that drove these impulses; it was a streak of sadness, and a shame that cut so deeply that no violence could undo it.
I had left my apartment that evening by taxi with an apparently healthy three-year-old Sheltie. I returned at 1:30am, alone, also by taxi. When the driver asked, “What happened to your dog?” I mumbled something vague, and pretended instead to be interested in his computerized navigation system.
I remembered wryly the headlines that had floated around in my mind only days before: “Killer Sheltie Mauls Woman.” Or, “Woman Kills Own Sheltie.”
I wasn’t going to argue with myself the fairness of the situation. Life had already taught me that it wasn’t going to do me any favors. Death can be beautiful but often isn’t, and life is damned ugly when you think about it.
I switched on the desk lamp that served as a makeshift living room light, then turned up the heat some, until I heard the hot air blower click and then rumble. My computer had run a virus scan that night. No threat(s) found. How nice. No messages on the machine.
I tossed my knapsack on the floor. In it were QB’s collar, his leash, and his treats bag that I kept hanging on my key lanyard. Also, I had a stash of QB’s favorite junk food treats that I fed to him only a minute before he was injected with poison, while he struggled to remove the IV from his left front leg.
I sat in my swivel chair and cried for a while, putting my tissues in a little pile that QB would surely have raided, shredded, and eaten if he had been with me.
I remembered the smell of feces at the moment of death.
Euthanasia for a dog that is old or sick is a difficult decision, but to put a dog to sleep whose behavior is aggressive and incurable but who is otherwise healthy and well is a decision ten times tougher.
People close to me supported my decision, but I went to the veterinary emergency hospital on my own, just me there by myself, for the purpose of killing my best friend.
I went to bed at 3am, and awoke at 7:30 or so Saturday morning. I put on some coffee, and didn’t bother getting dressed. What was the point? No dog to walk. I needed a shower, to wash off of me the stinking filth of the deed done the night before.
But I waited, and made some phone calls instead, wrote some e-mail, and changed the light bulbs in the living room. I waited, because when I walked into the bathroom I thought I saw QB lying on the cool linoleum floor by the toilet, where he liked to hang out. I waited, because I wanted to live with that filth, repugnant as it was, for just a little while longer.