By Whit Arnold
A few days later, I reached into my coat pocket and touched the trash bag Mom gave me. Handing it to me, she said, "Angie told me to bring this."
In the waiting room, “You Shook Me All Night Long,” played on the radio. Beside me was an older man. I overheard his conversation with the receptionist; his dog just had puppies. In the back, then, I heard the puppies barking.
The vet came out holding a black trash bag. He said he’d carry her to the car. It was the day after Thanksgiving; it was cold. In the parking lot, Mom appeared. She was crying. The vet gently placed Princess in the backseat, then he shook my hand before walking back inside. Mom drove home. I sat with Princess on my lap. Mom looked in the rearview mirror, "I'm sorry, she said, “I’m sorry I abandoned you.” I told her it was fine.
“I’m so sorry,” she echoed. I’d had Princess since I was 13. I was in middle school then, and now, Princess in a trash bag on my lap, I couldn’t believe how limp she was. She felt like a heavy water balloon.
“Now Linda is going to close her eyes, and she's going to wrap her up in the blanket you've brought. You can go wait outside and I'll bring her out to you.”
Before it happened, before the shot entered her vein, before she relaxed, Princess looked up at me. She was scared. As a puppy, she was so little I could hold her in the palm of my hand. Princess backed away from the technician, pushing her butt into my stomach. She was my dog; she’d been my dog since eighth grade.
When the vet came in, the technician took hold of Princess, and she held her tight against her stomach. The vet swabbed Princess’s arm with a disinfectant, then, quickly, skillfully, he pushed the needle into her vein.
The technician held Princess tight as I wept.
There was a change in Princess, a relaxation, and the woman said, "There she goes…"
Slowly, Princess laid her head down.
Consoling me, the vet said, "The only pain she felt was the shot. That's it. That's how I want to go.”
I paused, absorbing this, then said, “Me too.”
With his stethoscope, he listened for her heartbeat. "She's passed away,” he said.
When he left the room, it was just me and the technician. The technician, an older woman, said, "She's had a good life, I imagine."
“Yeah,” I said.
“How old is she?”
“Well my goodness,” she said. “And for such a little dog.” Staring at Princess, she paused, then, “Those brown eyes are beautiful. They're almost human the way they look at you.”
The vet said, “It's like an overdose of anesthesia. Just like we give humans.”
Over the phone, the woman asked, “And what is she?”
“Half terrier, half Chihuahua.”
“And what color is she?”
“She’s white with black ears.”
“And about how old is she?”
I got choked up. I couldn’t hold back.
On the other end, the woman said, “I'm sorry for all the questions.”
“It's okay,” I said. “I understand.”
“And what’s her name?”
A Note About the Author: Whit Arnold studies nonfiction at West Virginia University. Before, he lived abroad in Seoul, South Korea, where he taught English. He is currently at work on his master's thesis, Tadpole.