I laid down the shovel. I counted four blisters on my fingers. One bigger cut dead center of the palm, red and oozing. I didn’t even feel the skin break.
The vet’s assistant brought out a long, rectangular cardboard wrapped in tape. The scent of iron, guts, saliva, and bloody stool wafting ceremoniously as if he was saying, “Here’s my final mark, bitches. Breathe it in.” They placed the box on the back of my e-bike. I feel it with my hand for a vibration, a heave. A futile attempt to ascertain what was made certain an hour ago. Then, off we go, riding into the sunset, me and my dead dog. This is what disbelief is: Yesterday I brought in a live, mobile creature. Today I am bringing home a carcass.
The vet asked me if I wanted him buried there. I refused. I always bury my own dogs and cats. There is honor and love here – making sure the head is laid properly, the tongue not sticking out, the eyelids shut by my fingertips, the bones stiff but tenderly curled in place like a fetus. Within reach, later becoming part of trees we grow. Using my bare hands to dig a pit, a last act of service. Hands as a trade for paws and mittens that “served” and delighted when they were still warm. Small steps that left a delicate imprint in this world.
This dog, Tutoy, wasn’t even supposed to be here. He was a stray. My neighbors took pity on him but couldn’t take him in. It’s always either people bring strays to our home or strays intuitively find it and refuse to leave. Some kittens bizarrely come out of nowhere and follow me home. We’d foster them, but few in this country adopt strays. People would rather buy or adopt pets with breed. Street cats and dogs end up dying alone from sickness or a truck. So, we just let them stay here until their time is up.
Some, like Tutoy, stay for only a short time after battling chronic illness. It hurts. I’ve been fostering and adopting since I was a kid and I never get used to pets dying. But maybe I shouldn’t. Maybe it’s supposed to hurt. To remember this is what love feels like when it has nowhere to go. When it ends in our caring hands. Until they find other paws to love and hold again.
Thank you @themaiaim for these photos 💗