I could hear the clock tick and animals making noises in the distance, as I sat on the cold tile floor of the vets' room holding my childhood dog's paw. While I was sitting there, I told her about her life from start to finish. At that moment, I felt that it was important for Maggie to hear how much of an impact she had made on me in her 10 years of life. Her breathing was short, as I explained to her that on snow days I would take her sledding. She would run down the hill with every kid as the snow blew in her face. As I was sharing these stories, I noticed Maggie's eyes growing heavier, wanting her to not leave me just yet, I began my next story.
I told her about how when I would take her on walks I would let her off the leash because she would stay right by my side. As the stories continued, I began to soothe her by petting her head and rubbing her ears. I noticed that every time I pet her, thick black fur would come off in chunks. She was sick, did I never notice or had I tried to block it out?
The stories began to roll off my tongue faster as I wanted to spend every last minute with my only dog. I began telling Maggie about when we first picked her up, I was particularly young at the time but explained to Maggie that from the moment we got her she was an old soul. She had fallen asleep on the ride home; holding her I could feel her chest moving up and down while she slept.
Time soon felt like it wasn’t on my side.
The clock was ticking in the room and it kept growing louder, soon it felt like it was all I could hear, pushing itself into my mind. As Maggie's breath grew slower and slower, I stopped telling her stories for a moment to look at her; I had not noticed her dark brown eyes were weeping with water. She still had that sweet round puppy face that I so distinctly remembered. Her paws were still big, almost the size of my palm, and she still had that lump on her chest which was the reason I was here, sitting on the cold hard floor. I looked down at my shirt; it was no longer white, it had been covered in her dog fur. I went to sweep it off but decided not to, wanting to hold on to what I had left.
As my parents and sister came back into the room, Maggie stayed on my lap. Her breathing was getting slower by the moment and I wanted her to hold on for my last story. I asked my sister if she remembered moving into our new house. I told her about how Maggie would sit at the front door watching all the movers bring in our furniture and not even move. I explained how this is how we realized she had an old soul, we could leave the front door open all day and Maggie would just sit there watching people walk by. Just like a southern grandma sitting on her front porch watching people, this was Maggie, a southern grandma but in a dog.
While I wrapped up my final story the vet came in and asked if we were ready. The tears began to fall the instant the vet injected the medicine. I started to say the prayer Hail Mary which my mom always told me to say when I see an ambulance rushing past or a PennStar helicopter in the sky. I did not say this prayer loudly, I spoke it softly to myself, particularly where I could not hear myself say it. I wondered if Maggie heard my prayer as she began to rest her eyes for the final time. The tears flowed down my face, dropping on my shirt.
I did not want to say goodbye to my childhood dog who had eaten my food when I dropped it, played with me outside, and comforted me when I was sad. As the medicine went through her body Maggie's breath became labored and soon everything went quiet. I could hear my mom and dad talking to her but I had tuned them out, I just listened to her breathing and watched her chest rise then fall. For a moment I felt a peace, it felt like I was alone with my best friend as she went to heaven.
Then everything stopped.
The breathing noises, chest movement, everything I had always known. I knew but I didn’t want to accept it. I removed her collar with the pink sparkly dog tag, this way I could always have something of hers to remember her. I then whispered in her ear, “I love you with all my heart”, and her eyes fully shut.
Walking out of the vet I thought about everything Maggie had taught me and everything I had taught her. I could say at this moment that I learned to cherish the things that mean the most to me but honestly, that is something that I already knew. At this moment I learned losing Maggie was one of the saddest moments in my life, but it taught me I should not take those I love for granted and to appreciate those simple memories.