Her hair was short and coarse, not like it usually was. Normally it lay in soft tufts that smelled like the backyard. Normally she would greet me at the door, her eyes bright, her tail wagging, once I came home from school. Not today.
She lay on her “bed”, which was really our old white, fleece blanket in the corner of the what now seemed the dark, evil living room. I came over to her. She didn’t do anything. She just lay there, shaking slightly. I sat there next to her until she would be taken away, forever. It was only thirty minutes earlier I had gotten the news that she would have to be put down.
I had just turned ten, I didn’t understand that this was what was best for her. That she was in pain. If she were gone, then she wouldn’t feel any pain. But was that better? Couldn’t we have healed her? Couldn’t we have saved her? I guess I’ll never know. And what I regret the most is, I feel that we could have.
It was the last night of Hanukkah. But no presents that night. I watched her be taken away to the car. It slowly drove down the cold, winter street. Grandma’s blue Subaru disappeared around the corner. I pressed my face against the door to see if I could see one last glimpse of where she was.
She was gone.
No more trying to attack geese when we walked by them during our walks around the pond. No more barking at the mailman. No more stealing food off of my plate during dinner when I sat on the floor to be next to her. But, no more being sick. No more trips to the doctor. No more checking on her every minute to make sure she was still alive. No more Willow.
I’ve been told stories of when I was a baby, how Willow had “protected” me from guests who wanted to hold me, and anyone new who wanted to be near me. I remember when I fell into the pond in the backyard, and she tried to pull me out, even though she couldn’t and I almost drowned. I remember that when I was little, I would read my required reading books to Willow instead of my parents. I remember that at times, she was the only friend I had. Looking back now, I know that everyone needs someone in their life who loves them without judgement. Willow was that for me.