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How do you say goodbye to a dog?


Our dog died. Well, we put him down. Put him to sleep is what the vet in Boston said. Maybe “to put down” is only for a goat or a pig. I’m not sure.

We knew Sparky would die soon because the vet wouldn’t operate on his cancer. His heart wasn’t good enough. He seemed so healthy so I told myself I’d get a second opinion. But he got unhealthy so fast. So I just thought I’d go back to the vet to see if he’s in pain. Then he bit the cancer spot and there was blood everywhere. Then I stayed up with him for two days. Holding him so he wouldn’t bite the spot more. I took him outside. I gave him water. Sometimes the boys pet him, when they weren’t grossed out. Then Sparky started snapping at us. Growling. It was clear he was in a lot of pain.

The boys felt guilty that we let it get this painful.

Oh god. Please god don’t let it be this painful for me. The boys cried and pet him. They woke up in the middle of the night to pet him. I took him to the bathroom with me because I didn’t want him to bite his foot. We thought of putting a cone on him, but that would just make his last days alive even more terrible. So I was a human cone. I relented a few times and just let him bite at the wound. I thought maybe it was like scratching an itch. It would feel good.

Nino cried. Not in front of us, but I have known him for a long time and I know what his eyes look like after he cries. I was touched because he was mostly scared of Sparky. Nino sat across from me and the boys and Sparky when the vet gave Sparky the relaxant. Sparky was in my lap and the boys were petting him and I pet the boys while they cried. I wanted to pet Sparky. I had to work hard at being a good mom. I wanted to curl up on the sofa with my dead dog and just be done with life for right now. I can see, for a second I could see, how those people end up locked up in their house with their dead relative who they love so much they can’t let go. That could be me.

Wait. Are there people like that or did I make that up? It doesn’t really matter. I cannot even be that crazy for one second in front of the boys. I didn’t cry. Or maybe one tear. But not much. I just was strong. And I told myself don’t worry. I can do this. I will be fine. I have already lost so much.

Sparky yelped and snapped when the second needle came. I had to hold his mouth shut which was hopefully not the last thing he remembers about me. For a second I thought about if I had a choice. I didn’t. We had to do the needle. So I was really strong with him. I held him so strong because we just had to get the needle in. I didn’t tell the boys. I hope they don’t remember. Maybe like I don’t remember how painful it was to give birth. Like how I only remember the good stuff.

There is blood on the sofa where Sparky and I slept for two days. I tried so hard to give him what he needed. And I didn’t sleep. It looked like he was dying in his sleep at one point. He was laying so still on the sofa. Then he was heaving, but long waits in between breaths, and he hadn’t opened his eyes in a while. I got nervous, so I picked him up. Woke him. Wrapped him in my arms and talked to him in my special only for Sparky voice.

It’s very intimate to take care of someone dying. Well, he’s not a someone. But it was still intimate. I didn’t want him to die before the kids could say goodbye. I didn’t want to let the boys down. We were all in it together.

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