This was presented at Wild Child Publishing in February 2006. I won the Editor's Choice for Non-fiction. Since Wild Child doesn't archive like many ezines do, I'll post it here.
A Good, Honest Dog
by Marva Dasef (Copyright 2006)
We walked down the concrete path with chainlink cells on both sides. Shouting to make ourselves heard over the cacophony of barking, yipping, and howling, we examined the inmates of this canine prison.
I looked into one cell and a stocky black and brown pup, only a few months old, sat up and begged. No barks, yips, or howls from her, just a pair of pleading brown eyes. "This one," I said without hesitation. We paid her bail, signed all the papers and took her home--our new dog.
We named our darling puppy Loki after the Norse god of mischief. No matter that she was female, since most people don't know the Vikings' mythology. We resisted calling her Heinz 57, although we couldn't quite figure out her breeding. A bit of springer, a dab of spaniel, maybe those short legs told of a rogue dachshund? In any case, she became our loving dog and we her loving parents.
Her short legs and chunky body, while cute as could be, wreaked havoc on her fetching skills. Toss the frisbee, then wait...and wait. When she caught up with the already-grounded disk, she spent a few minutes examining the surrounding area for stray scents. She loved to play fetch, but often forgot that her role was to return the object to the tosser.
Walking her on a leash was not easy, as her nose led us back and forth on a chase for fading scents. What she lacked in physical skills, she made up for with a nose inherited from some obscure ancestor who must have hunted for a living.
As she aged, she grew too fat and I kicked myself for not exercising her more often. I always had some excuse or other–work, kids, sheer laziness. Besides, I thought, the prednisone the vet prescribed for flea allergies caused her weight gain.
In her tenth year, her hips started to pain her. She loved to sleep on the old sofa, long ago claimed as her own, but she couldn't jump up anymore. She'd walk over to it, then turn her head and look at me with her pleading eyes. "Oh, okay," I'd sigh and go lift her bottom up as she scrabbled with her front legs to gain her throne.
Our vet loved her, or at least she said she did. I think our vet loved every dog that walked, or was dragged, through the door. Nevertheless, I'll always remember her saying, "You know, Loki's just a good, honest dog." That was our Loki, a good, honest dog.
In her thirteenth year, the vet found a tumor in her belly. "She'll be okay for a while. They don't grow very fast."
"Can't you operate?" I asked, mentally tallying up an expensive vet bill.
"It won't do any good, I'm afraid. The problem is that if we try to remove the tumor, it would most likely spread to other parts of her body. We'll just keep an eye on her."
I took her home, my hands cold and heart heavy. "We'll keep an eye on her" simply meant that she was going to die, and it would be sooner rather than later.
I took out the photo album and looked at her baby pictures. I chuckled when I saw her dripping ears at her first bath. For some reason, this dog--just an animal you know--moved into my soul. A happy dog, her butt wiggling her joy when we called her, "let's take a ride!" She loved to go along with us, like dogs do, her head hanging out the back window.
Steadily and relentlessly she grew worse. The tumor became evident, now hanging from her belly; a monstrous thing killing my good, honest dog.
Then, one day, while vacuuming the house and dusting and doing all those housework chores I hate, I went to the sunroom. Loki was laying against the wall, her legs shaking. She had shat all over the rug and she looked at me with sad eyes. Please forgive me, I didn't do it on purpose, they said.
"Oh, Loki," I cried and went to her to pet her, to tell her that it was okay. She began to shake with another seizure. I screamed for my husband and together we wrapped her in a blanket and drove to the vet.
I could hear her in the back, panting. Not just the usual dog panting, but a rasping shudder as she was wracked with spasms again and again.
The vet examined her and looked at us with sympathy. "I can give her a tranquilizer to keep down the convulsions, or..." She left the sentence unfinished.
I looked into those brown, trusting eyes and decided to let my dear Loki sleep. The vet gave her the shot as I held her head in my shaking hands. Her eyes slowly closed and her gasping ceased.
I cry now as I write this. I loved my Loki and will miss her forever. I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I think there has to be a dog heaven for good, honest dogs. I know she is there.