I found her under the work shed. New England was tempting us with a kiss of heat on bare arms in a teasingly warm day in early March. And I found her there, under the work shed. I had been calling her and Anya, our lumbering, calf-like black Lab to come inside so that Colby and I could go into Portland for an interview. He looked very snappy, in a blue shirt he'd found in his fathers room. I liked what the blue did with his eyes. We'd been praying the whole weekend that God would have his way, that He would give us discernment and wisdom. We felt the peace of God on our hearts and the anticipation of the unanswered questions swirling like gentle wisps of smoke around the chambers of our hearts. I came inside, Anya following behind, her tail keeping time with her happy, simple thoughts which are the music of her existence.
“Colby I can't find Cricket.” I said, meaning for him to come and call her, and we both looked at the clock on the wall.
“Great,” was all he said, and I left him to finish tying his shoes.
I went outside again and scanned the yard and the inclining slope which quickly turns into a hill cascading with boulders and rocks. I heard the door shut and turned to see him come down the steps. He called her in his sugary, high-pitched voice which assures dogs they are not in trouble, only needed. It was then I saw her silhouette under the shed, it was her tail wagging happily that caught my eye, and at the very same time Colby saw her too.
I don't remember walking to the shed. But I remember thinking that I didn't want him to get his clothes dirty so I got down on my hands and knees. The phone rang. I hardly paid attention as he went up into the house. I crawled under the shed and she had that sorry look in her eyes and she tilted her head down because she thought she was in trouble. I talked to her. I called her baby and gently touched her so she would know I meant to comfort her. I could see her chest pulsing with a disturbing violence with every beat of her heart.
I had known when I couldn't find her that she had gone to find a place to die. But feeling the lonely weight of the house above me and the dirt sticky beneath my hands I was sad that she felt like she had to die alone. I could hear Colby talking to someone above me. And I wept. I wept because if we had not found her she would be here by herself, not understanding the pounding of her chest, the quickness of her breath; she couldn't understand why she was always hungry but couldn't eat or drink, why she was skin and bones or why her fur had lost its' sheen, only understanding the instinct to let her life ebb away in solitude.
I heard the door bang shut and Colby s steps. I don't remember what his question was, or if he even asked a question, but “She's dying,” was my answer, and my words choked me and seized me all at once. I know it hurt Colby to hear me cry with me beyond his reach, hidden by the shed, and he said, “Come out here hun,” or something to that affect, and for the first time in our marriage I didn't even acknowledge what he said. I remember that vaguely crossing my mind. I just cried and stroked Cricket. Trying to send her my love.
When he went to call the vets and I began to think about how to gently bring her out without dragging her along the dirt I stopped crying. She was no longer alone and would not die under the shed, and so I stopped crying. I pushed some rocks out of the way and very gently, by little movements half-carried, half-slid Cricket from under her would-be tomb. I twinged a little at the indignity I must be causing her, for she was simply obeying the laws of her nature and I was in the way of that. Out again in the sunshine I lifted her much too easily and got into the van, waiting for Colby. I memorized the feel of her in my arms, knowing in my bones that we would be coming back to the house on Spec Pond Road by ourselves. Knowing in my heart this pressing of my hands against her frail body and resting my head on her neck was goodbye. And it was.
I don't write this to be morbid or sad just for the sake of being sad, but because I had to. I have been circling this ever since it happened and until I get it down and away from me it won't leave me alone. I am stunned by the affection that I can feel for an animal. I always liked dogs and cats and so forth but I distinctly remember a moment which forever changed my attitude toward them.
I was house-sitting for our neighbors and part of my duties there was to take care of their cats, one of which was diabetic. Once a day I had to find an elderly looking cat, bring it in the kitchen, and set him on the counter and give him a shot. Jennifer, my neighbor told me that he knows he needs the shot and feels better when I give it to him. Something about the cat needing me and allowing me to do this impacted me deeply. It is a fact that had never occurred to me, this fact that without my care this animal would die. A revelation of the power I had for either comfort or torment was suddenly starkly apparent. Suddenly I paid much more attention to the effect I had on the animals in my care. Some may laugh, but there are times when I pet my cats, Jacopo and Ezio and I choke back a sob because I love the simple, radiant joy of bringing happiness to those in my care.
The thought that flickers through my mind as I conclude, realizing I've run out things that need to be said is this: if I feel this way for pets, I can't imagine how much more I will be blown away emotionally when we have this baby. God help me.
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