Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | July 19, 2011

the big needle


warning: sad dog story


Wilbur was the one comforting ME when I fell on the floor sobbing after making That One Phone Call to the vet. You know the phone call, the one about The Big Needle.


I hunkered down next to Will, who was lying, sore and panting, on the cool stone of the hearth under the wood stove, and sobbed those wrenching sobs that are so god damn familiar now, those tears that are so salty they burn my eyes and face, and I must take care to drink a lot of water after, as in a sudden illness.


I never used to cry like that, and now it is practically unremarkable. Ebbing, now, two years out, not so everyday, but still: emotion way too familiar, and unavoidable as icebergs.


I knelt on the floor in front of him, my face close to his and one hand on either side of his wasted furry frame, and sobbed. He looked into my face with what I can only call kindness, sympathy, and understanding in his cloudy eyes, and licked each of my hands in turn, once, before laying his head down again and sighing a doggy sigh.


In the office the vet asked me if I wanted to stay with Will, said that it was okay to leave and they would take good care of him. Talked about the sedative to relax him, and the vial of medication that would end his life. Put a soft gray blanket on the tile floor, had Will lie on it. I wondered whether that blanket goes into the crematorium too. I thought about Wilbur chasing rabbits in his sleep the night before, a deeper, more restful sleep than he’s had in months.


No. I can do this. I’ve seen my husband dead in our bedroom. I watched him take his last breath. I wiped his bottom in those last days. I can do THIS.


This was the dog I didn’t want, the dog we argued over, the dog who arrived home with tiny Anna and big Papa the Saturday before Christmas 1997, the dog whose original owners had named Mouth.  (We should have taken that as a warning. But did we? Noooooooo.)


This is the dog who was untrainable; who got into the trash every chance he got; who would eat whole cakes, pounds of butter, loaves of bread; whose motto when considering a forbidden act vs. a punishment was “WORTH IT!”


This dog cost me hundreds in bail money and vet bills to support his habit of taking off on walkabout on every important date since Jeff left, and returning sick and unrepentant. He barked at the wind blowing; and developed a condition requiring hourly bathroom breaks and multiple daily cleanups; and awoke precisely at 3:17 am every morning for months after Jeff died at that hour.


This dog came to me every single time I cried these last two years, and pushed his bony head under my hand, and leaned into my knee, comforting me merely with his weight and warmth and presence, the only things he had to offer.


I can do THIS, I told the vet.


I am glad I wore my sunglasses.


I am glad they have a back door.



  1. A photo with a heart-shaped stain on the ground. Nice touch.

    The 3:17 bit is pretty creepy. Interesting.


  2. I’m so sorry. When we lost our Rottweiler we grieved as though we’d lost a child.

    I look at my dogs and think of the comfort they give me and also how untrainable my deaf dog is that I could murder him. And I’m thinking of you missing that comfort. And that link that he represented to your husband and old life.

    I am so so sorry. Xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: