Duchess was nineteen–impossibly ancient for a big dog–when Dave brought her to the vet for the last time after a month of lethargy and a week when she didn’t eat and rarely left her bed by the fireplace.
For nearly two decades, Duchess had barked at countless delivery trucks, slept in pools of sunshine on hardwood floors for what must add up to entire years, saw three kids off to preschool and eventually to college, ate and pooped a mountain range of kibble, dug enough dirt to bury a city, chased whole universes of squirrels that she never caught.
The vet said, “A good life, a big life.” His voice was so kind, like an old, wise friend. “Maybe it’s time for her to rest now.”
Dave nodded, ignored the stranglehold on his throat, stretched out a hand for one last touch goodbye.
For the first time in weeks, Dave saw Duchess’s nose twitch and search, saw a familiar look in her cloudy eyes as she slowly raised her head a last time.
Just seconds from the end of her life, she was checking to see if Dave’s hand concealed a treat.
John Sheirer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 26 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. Find him at JohnSheirer.com