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Goodbye, Old Brown Dog

An old brown Lab was lying motionless on the tile floor of the vet’s office when I walked in this morning. I’d come to pick up Pearl’s monthly heartworm and flea/tick prevention, a typical errand for a cold drizzly Saturday morning.

His family was with him, an older gentleman and his wife, along with what appeared to be their teenage granddaughter. She was gently stroking him behind the ears as his eyes stared straight ahead. The old brown dog had a muzzle gone completely grey, its hind legs splayed behind him in an attempt to get comfortable on the cool floor.

Dr. Trom came out for triage. The elderly owner, in a voice hoarse with age and obvious sadness, began describing the dog’s symptoms. “He’s refusing to eat or drink. He’s coughing a lot. I’ve had to carry him outside, carry him to the car and carry him into your office.”

I overheard Dr. Trom tell them that the dog’s belly was distended, that he could have a blockage causing fluid buildup, that the dog was in major discomfort as a result.

By this point, my purchases had been rung up. A routine transaction, one of a hundred the office will process this morning. Dr. Trom came to the desk to speak with one of the vet techs. Her face said it all. For that dog’s family, there would be nothing routine today.

As I walked out, I turned to the family and said “I hope he’s ok.” The teenage granddaughter said “thank you” with a tear in her eye. I wanted to reach out, to tell her I understand, to help them in some small way. To show a tiny bit of empathy.

The dog never looked up. She sat there and continued to rub his ears and whisper positive words to him while her grandparents tried to keep their composure. We’re never really prepared to lose a loved one, after all.

I came home and hugged Pearl. Today is one more day I get to enjoy her unconditional love. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.


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