I curl my toes into the dirt and use the gritty texture to anchor myself, pulling my mind to feel the cool of the ground at my soles and the wind on my face. I hear the sound of his clothing rustle as he shifts uneasily in the doorway. He doesn’t know what to say. He wants to comfort me in some way, but he knows me well enough to know that his efforts acknowledge my tears and actually make me more uncomfortable. He shifts again, and the weight of his expectation that I do something begins to press on me.
Annoyance flickers through me, I welcome it for the reprieve of my other emotions, but the weight of my grief smothers the flames all too quickly. I give in with a sigh. Pushing the heels of my hands roughly against my eyes, I crush away the tears. I turn to face him and pretend as though the tears were never there. He doesn’t comment on the red eyes or anything else, he just moves aside to let me back into the house, brushing his arm against mine in the process. I lean into him slightly to acknowledge the great effort this is costing him.
I married a man who likes to talk about his emotions. He faces them head on, expresses them and is ever hopeful that I will be an adult and do the same. Instead, I curl myself up on the couch and refuse to make eye contact. I know he’s sad too, but he doesn’t feel the way I do. He wasn’t there, and he didn’t make the decision.
This morning my boy was still happy. So eager to greet me when I walked through the door that for a moment you would be forgiven for realising that it was the end because despite his enthusiasm he couldn’t walk. So thrilled to be close to me he was dragging himself along the floor to be by my side. That was the moment grief started to take hold.
The seed was planted in my heart months ago. My boy was wobbling on his hind legs while he walked and a trip to the vets revealed a degenerative spinal condition. He would feel no pain, but he would be gone within the year. I ignored it. With no cure I did the next best thing, I loved him more. We walked more often, and I fussed him whenever he wished, which for a dog is more often than not, always.
We spent the day my boy and I. Curled on the living room floor together we cuddled, I petted him without a break, fed him his favourite treats and held his water bowl while he quenched his thirst. He leaned into me and covered me in his fur and the smell of dog.
Three o’clock came faster than I wanted, I would have drawn the hours out for longer if I could have but I have no power over time. Dad has come home, and our appointment is at three thirty. He carries my boy to the car, and we sit through the half hour of traffic to get to the vet. I reach my hand behind me for the whole journey and keep my hand buried in the thick fur of his neck. My arm aches but I can’t bear to let him go. When we arrive mam and the vet are waiting for us. We are rushed through the reception, no lingering to feel the sting of seeing others who have brought their loved ones to this place and will leave feeling better than they arrived.
Dad places my boy on a blanket on the floor and I am instantly by his side, his head in my lap. I haven’t looked at a single person in the room, only my boy. I try and absorb the patterns of his tan and black fur, the sprinkling of grey on his muzzle. I study the exact way his ears flop and give him a broad forehead, the reason he came to me all those years ago, his ears wouldn’t stand up to make him good enough to show. I feel the softness of those floppy ears and press my face to his broad forehead. He licks my hand and I almost want to laugh for a moment as I look into his brown eyes and tearfully call him a slobbery mutt.
The whole time the vet has been talking in a soft voice. I think she is supposed to be soothing but it’s grating. She brings help, my boy is a big dog, and as I hold him steady, they shave a small area of his fur. He whines and licks her hand. I hold him tighter, head tucked to my chest, and tell him what a good boy he is as they place the cannula. She picks up the syringes, two of them, both filled with red liquid. She’s talking still but I don’t try to decipher the words. I can barely breathe as she starts to push the plunger.
My throat is aching and tight. I whisper to him that he is my beautiful boy, he is such a good boy, I love him so much. He grows heavy in my arms and the grief explodes a ragged hole in my heart. I know the instant he has gone, I don’t need the vet to bring her stethoscope and check for a heartbeat I know won’t be there. Mam has her hand on my shoulder, asking me to let my boy go. Dad’s face is tear-stained as he collects my boy from the blanket and we leave to take him home. He will dig a hole in the garden and put my boy there in the soil where his two brothers have gone before him.
That was hours ago now, I am home again, faced with a loving husband who wishes to make me better but cannot. I killed my dog because I loved him and the world makes no sense to me.