Sunday, 8 March 2020

Proof Of Heaven

His head rests in the crook of my arm as I cradle him. I look down, and despite his pain, his eyes are filled with trust. He is my best friend, my closest companion, my family and the love of my life; he is more than I deserve.  

“It’ll be all right,” I assure him as my fingers stroke his silky fur. He blinks once, trying to understand, then gives my passing thumb an exhausted lick. “It will be all right,” I say again. He sighs and closes his eyes, letting the full weight of his head hang on my arm.  I look up and try to compose myself. I’m holding myself together, barely, because a grown-ass man just can’t be seen blubbering in between the displays of cat toys and rubber bones. I swallow down a lump in my throat and force my self to look away from him.

The girl behind the counter is looking down; writing or texting. I know she is doing it so she won’t have to look at me. It’s not because she is not nice; she is, it’s because she’s been witness to the journey we’ve made together. She was here on our first day, when he was only a speed-ball of fluff. She’d knelt down to rub his puppy-tummy and made such a fuss of him. That day seemed like only yesterday. How has the time gone so quickly? I guess love is the answer. He filled my days, my hours, with love; making them skip past in the blink of an eye.

The door at the end of the corridor opens and the man nods, telling me it's time. Somehow I manage to find my feet and the girl looks up from what she is doing. She watches us cross the room and my friend lifts his head. I can feel the warm, soft, weight of him shift in my arms. He's looking at her; probably hoping for a treat or a belly rub. As I draw level with her desk she stretches out a hand to him and I pause while she rubs him behind his ear; that special place. His tongue pokes out, once, twice…but he is too tired to manage a third air kiss for her. She takes her hand back and looks at me with sad eyes and I know all she wants to say, but can’t.

I shake myself mentally and move on. He holds the door open for us and I see the bed he's made on the table. It’s one of the new ones from the shop, with a fur blanket folded neatly beside it. As I pass, he rests a hand on my shoulder, as if I’m the one he is tending to, not my friend. I lay him down gently and tuck the blanket around him. He looks up at me with his huge brown eyes and I wonder if he knows what’s coming. I think he might because he always seems to know what is going on in my head, even when I don’t know myself. 

'It's for the best' I reminded myself. I'd heard all the reasons a thousand times but I just don’t want him to go. I couldn't face it without him, just couldn't. I want to scoop him up and run far far away, where old age and sickness can’t find us. I'd have done it too if I thought it would work. But this is the real world, where saying goodbye to your dog won't get you a day off work. A world where people expect you to suck it up and stop acting like a drama queen. And I could do it too, if only he was going to be there to help me.

I nod at the man who is standing by with the syringe, but I won’t look at him. I just keep rubbing my buddies head. As the needle pricks his skin, his eyes find mine and I knew he knew. I could see it. He was frightened and I didn't know what to do. I felt sucked into his eyes, as if he was staring into my soul. That was when something miraculous happened. I could feel his thoughts like I so often believed he could feel mine. I realised that all the time I thought I was minding him, he was actually minding me. His fear wasn't for him, it was for me.

I leaned close and whispered in his ear, "It's Ok, boy, I can manage it from here."

I swear he smiled at me. There was no anger, no resentment, no regret in him; just all the best things God ever created, wrapped up in a blanket of fur. His eyes flicked closed once, then once more, then opened no more.

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