The veterinary emergency room is slow today. A few cats. A few dogs. And I wish we weren’t here.
Ellie Mae, my bloodhound, is not well. She is at my feet. She doesn’t want to move. I can tell she’s in pain.
I can’t stand seeing a dog in pain.
On the floor beside her is another sick dog. An elderly golden retriever named Bart. Old Bart is a giant with a white face and brown eyes. He’s a sweet boy.
His owner is an elderly woman. She is crying—head in hands. I understand that Bart has come to the end of the road. Decisions were made.
The old woman is petting him. “Good boy, Bart,” she says. “Good boy.”
The vet tech calls Bart’s name. He can’t stand on his own legs, he’s too weak. It takes a few people to lift him. I can tell he’s embarrassed by this. Who ever said dogs don’t have pride?
They walk Bart to the Back Room.
I hate this place.
The doctor says Ellie Mae is in bad shape. There is a lot of blood in her stools, she’s running a fever. She won’t eat. I offered her Virginia ham this morning, she didn’t want it. Hell must be frozen over.
This is the animal who once stole a pork tenderloin from my neighbor’s open grill. She ate the tin foil and everything.
“This is serious,” says the doctor. “I won’t lie…”
Serious. I cried some. I didn’t want Ellie to see me. So I forced a straight face.
Long ago, Ellie took her first camping trip with me. She was young. She was all legs, ears, and hair—just like me.
She slept in my bed. She ate what I ate. She even went to the public showers with me. You should’ve seen the looks we got when we came waltzing out of the bathhouse.
Ellie and I went fishing together. Well, I went fishing; she went swimming. That day, she kept pace beside me. No leash. I’ve only had one dog who could follow me off-leash.
And on that sunny day long ago, I buried my face in the rolls of her young fur. I told her I would love her forever. And I certainly will.
This is my girl. She is my forever-friend. She will be with me in the Great Beyond. She’ll steal pork tenderloin while I get fitted for my halo.
The doctor tells me it’s pancreatitis. He says it’s serious, but treatable. I don’t know what this means, but at least Ellie has a chance.
He’s going to keep her overnight. He’s putting her on enough medicine to sink a fourteen-foot bass boat.
Ellie tries to follow me out the door. She doesn’t understand why she can’t be with me.
So I hold her. And I smell her. She has a unique smell, one I’d recognize anywhere. And it might sound silly, but I’m sniffing her fur because that’s the Dog Way. It’s how they love.
They breathe you in. They memorize you, and they never forget you.
Tonight, she will sleep alone. I won’t hear her snoring beside me. And in the morning, she won’t be around to wake me with a cold nose. When I make coffee, she won’t be sitting by her food bowl.
So I’m holding her, talking to her. She can’t understand my words, but she knows what I mean.
“I love you,” I say. “So much.”
The woman leads Ellie into a cold kennel and hooks her to an IV drip. And I’m wondering how it happened, how a dog became my world.
I guess, I’m asking for your prayers. Not just prayers for Ellie, but for the old woman who visited this place with a golden retriever, then left alone.
Get well, Ellie Mae.
Rest in peace, Bart.