As our eyes met, I remember last Autumn. Being empathic individuals, we both knew the end was coming soon. You had never been afraid of the vet in your entire life. There was no reason at all for you to be shaking like a leaf for so long after we left the office. Like all dark and hurtful thoughts, I pushed it dismissively out of my mind.
You were a little slower, and your shoulder hurt a little more, but in every other way you were the same faithful, loving companion you had always been for the last 14 years. Nothing could diminish your excitement at meeting Matt and Ashley, along with their dogs, Sophie and Benjie, at the river for a walk. Always the curious one, you happily splashed across the water with Matt, reveling in the afternoon sunshine.
Breathing in the smells of soap and antiseptic, reality came on me like a tightening shroud. Spending hour upon hour outside in the bush, I'm automatically aware of the subtle changes around me. How then could I miss all the signs that led up to this moment? Stroking your head, I reflected on all the times you'd stumbled, or inadvertently ran into something. Looking back, I don't know how I could've brushed it off as a moment's carelessness. You, who were always so agile, running down the road to the house, jumping into the truck, or, in your younger years, playing out in the yard. Maybe, as with all hurtful, ugly truths, my mind dismissed it as not serious.
Seeing as the problem was not going away, I booked an appointment with our vet. You got in the car, same as always. Going places, meeting people, and experiencing the excitement of a new day's adventure was always your greatest pleasure. Arriving at the office, my own trepidation mounted as I forcibly dragged you out of the car and inside. Seeing you start to tremble as Clair came into the examining room, my own fear started rising. I only heard some of the words after "brain tumor;" something about "options" and "radiation."
The selfish part of me immediately wanted the radiation choice. Just because I knew this day was inevitably coming did not mean I was ready for it to come NOW, today. Running my hand over your coat, I asked myself how would I sleep alone? You've always been the warm presence curled up against my back protecting me from the fears of the night. There were still so many places to go: the bush for berries and wood, town for groceries. Even the thought of going for a walk alone was definitely distasteful. My impossibly rich, definitely snobby, neighbors all love you. Being the social butterfly, you always made 'meet and greet' mandatory on our walks.
Taking a breath, and looking into your almond eyes, I knew I had to face the truth. You had already lived past the average age for your breed. Fourteen in Pointer years is equivalent to 75 in human years. Would I really put a 75 year old person through radiation? Would they come out 'shiny and new' afterwards?
I felt your tremors starting again as I buried my face into your neck, breathing in your scent, impressing it in my mind. As Claire came back into the waiting room, she looked at my face, and knew I had reached my decision.