In The Sun
When I was 16, my parents announced that we would be getting a dog of our own. I was horrified. I should have seen it coming - my brother and sister had been pleading with my father for months. I begged my parents to reconsider. I warned them that getting a dog could ruin my life. When I realized that a dog was coming whether I liked it or not, I informed everyone that it had better stay away from me. I swore that I would never let it lick me, touch me, or sit on the furniture.
In high school, Winnie would lie beside me on the couch, snoring while I watched reruns of “I Love Lucy.” I played with her after school, and she slept with either my sister or me every night. When I left for college, I missed her as much as I missed my parents, and she missed me too - she moped around the house for weeks after I left.
Winnie started to get sick just after her 13th birthday. It wasn’t long before she had almost completely stopped eating. The vet couldn’t see anything wrong, but Winnie just got sicker. She lost weight quickly, going from 25 pounds to just 15.
It was almost Christmas, and we were all home to visit, my brother and sister and me. We called the vet again, asking what we could do, and whether Winnie was in pain. The vet said she thought it was cancer, and yes, Winnie was in pain. My family cried, and debated whether and when we should help to end her life. We hoped that Winnie would die peacefully in her sleep. But instead we watched all week as Winnie got weaker, til all she could do was lie in place.
We made the appointment for two days after Christmas at 4 o’clock. The day was brisk but sunny - that afternoon, I sat on the back deck with Winnie cradled in my lap, wrapped in her favorite blanket, her face turned towards the sun. We all drove to the vet together. My sister held Winnie in her arms like she had the first night I had met her, laying her down only so the vet could give her the first shot. Soon Winnie was snoring deeply. We laid her down so the vet could give her the second shot, the one that would stop her heart. My sister and I put our hands on Winnie’s little body. She breathed in deeply once, then twice, then stopped. The vet pressed the stethoscope to her chest and said softly, “She’s gone.” We sobbed. We held each other. We drove home in a car that suddenly felt impossibly empty, one family member short.