Donald M. Hart
David clutched the Chihuahua to his chest. He was stroking its fur as tears ran down his cheeks. He snuffled back a sob.
“I told you not to cry. It’s only a dumb dog. I’ve told you for weeks we had to go to the vet. Stop that crying, or I will pull into a parking lot and give you something to cry for,” his mother said.
David drew in a sharp breath, held it, gritted his teeth, and flexed his muscles to stifle the next sob of sorrow that seemed to rack his whole body.
He closed his eyes and envisioned the time his grandfather had taken him on a ride, not telling him where they were going. “Grandpa, won’t you tell me where we are going? It must be someplace very special if you are not going to tell me. If you don’t tell me, how will I know if I will like it or not?”
“Oh, I think you will be happy with the place we are going. It is just a couple more miles up the road.”
David leaned back against the seat. His frustration was growing and welling up inside him to
a crescendo. He crossed his arms in a manner of resignation and decided a couple
miles would not be too long to wait.
After a few minutes, his grandfather announced, “This is the place. It doesn’t look like much, but what they have inside of this rundown trailer is a sight to behold.”
David was horrified that his grandfather would even consider taking him to such a place. It was terrible. The screen door hanging by one hinge, the window screens, what was left of them, were loose, the front deck was leaning precariously to one side, the grass knee high, and there were three junk cars in the yard David slowly climbed out of the truck. “Grandpa, I don’t like this place.”
“Oh, but you will soon enough,” came the reply. “I imagine you will even get to take something home with you before we leave here.”
David didn’t think there was anything he could possibly want from this awful place.
Hi grandfather knocked on the trailer door. A loud portly woman with a heavy accent opened the door.
“I wuz begin’ ta thank you all weren’t a coming. Nice to see ya again, Zeb. Is this the boy? Course it tis’. Who else would ya be a brang’ing. Hi, boy. You’ns must be David?”
“Well, David, People roun’ here jus’ call me Granny.”
“Yes, ma’am, Granny.”
“You’ns come this a way to th back room, and I’ll be’s showing ya what I got and you,
David, can pick which’un ya want.”
David and his grandfather followed the old woman to the back room. As soon as they entered
the room, whining met their ears. As David looked around and could see five puppies in a little
pen situated against the back wall of the room.
“Am I really going to get a puppy, grandpa?”
Yes, David, choose the one you want.”
David walked over to the pen and chose the reddish brown puppy. He picked it up and held it to his chest and began petting it.
“Don’ts be a holdn’ him sa’ tight. They’uns Chihuahuas ana they be a might fragile,” said Granny.
David loosened his grip on the puppy bit. The puppy wriggled around to face him and began to lick his face. David laughed and said, “That tickles.”
A sudden lurch and the blaring of a horn jolted David back to reality.
“Son-of-a-bitch,” his mom yelled out the window at a car that had turned in front of her. “Asshole. Where did you get your license? Probably in a Cracker Jack box.”
David didn’t understand why she was still yelling at the driver. He was too far down the road to hear his mom..
David felt a slight wiggle in his arms and realized his pet Max was still there. And this in turn reminded him of what they were doing. Tears began to well up in his eyes again. He couldn’t help it. He Loved Max dearly.
His mother stopped at a red light and looked over at him. She used the back of her hand to slap David on his left cheek. He began to cry louder.
“I told you I’d give you something to cry about if I caught you crying again. Now do as I said and stop that crying.”
David lowered his head. As he did, Max looked up at him and David saw that Max’s eyes were watering, giving the appearance of him crying too. Upon seeing Max David began to wail. His mother reached over and backhanded him again.
“Damn I wish this were over with,” said his mother. “It can’t be soon enough.”
David’s crying was now just a small whimper. He clutched his beloved pet closer to him. Normally he wouldn’t be able to do that, for Max loved to look out the window when he was riding. But not today, not on this ride.
David’s mother looked over at the two of them, a boy and his dog, and felt oh so slightly the twinges of remorse. She knew this trip to the vets was hard onDavid. But it was a trip that was necessary. As she turned down the street that led to the vet’s office, she looked again at David.
Small rivulets of tears were streaming down his cheeks. At least, she thought, he wasn’t crying out load. It was she couldn’t abide. The car bounced a little as she pulled into the drive at the vet’s office. Walking into the vet’s waiting room, David’s mother looked around and commented loud enough to all that were present, “God, I hate dogs. Why should there be dogs everywhere I look.” She walked to the receptionist desk and told the girl that Dr. Parnell was expecting them.
“Mother why do you hate dogs?”
“I’ve told before, but I’ll tell you one last time. When I was five years old, I had a dog named Magoo. He was a fluffy white dog and likable. One day I was playing with him, and he bit me. Then he ran off. Because he ran off, we had no way of telling if he was rabid or not and the doctor that treated me had to give me twenty-one shots in my stomach. My stomach turned black and blue and yellow. I hurt for weeks as it healed up. The bad part came after the twenty-first shot because when I got home Magoo was sitting on the porch wagging his tail. I killed him that same day by poisoning his food.”
Doctor Parnell appeared at the door. “Mrs. Pace. It’s time. If you would just follow me.”
David tried to resist. But his mother was stronger. They followed the doctor into an examination room. David began to cry again. He knew his mother wouldn’t hit him in front of the vet.
“Mrs. Pace, I know you have given it a lot of thought. And I understand this was a hard decision for you to make.”
“Not a hard as you might imagine.” “As I was saying, I think it is the best for Max. His quality of life is not going to get better, and he is already suffering. I’ll give him a shot that will make him just go to sleep. It’s painless. And it’s the most humane thing that can be done.”
David was crying louder and incessantly now. His breathing caught as he snuffled. He asked the doctor if there wasn’t something he could do to make his pet better. Dr. Parnell said there wasn’t.
David handed the doctor the tiny animal and the doctor placed him on the table.
“Mrs. Pace, do you think David should see this?”
“He needs to face reality and I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t know what happens when you put a pet down. It will be good for him, in the long run.”
The vet slowly placed the needle in the Max's leg and pressed the plunger of the syringe, and the fluid began to flow into his frail body. David was crying and petting the animal the whole time during the vet’s ministrations. As the animal quit breathing, David stopped petting.
The vet placed the animal in a cardboard coffin and taped it shut. He handed the coffin to David. Still snuffling David reached and took it from the vet. He and his mother walked out of
the room. As they passed the receptionist, David’s mother told her just to bill her for their services.
As they got into the car, David began to cry. He knew that this would be Max’s last ride.
His mother started to slap him again. But a small feeling of remorse caused her to reconsider. She didn’t know why. It just did.