Rise and Fall

I wrapped my arms around his abdomen. I patted his belly and scratched behind his ear. His fur felt prickly and warm, but he smelled awful. When the doctor inserted the needle, I watched his blood swell into the syringe and mix with the pale pink euthanasia. I felt him stiffen, but he didn’t shake or fight. I watched her thumb slowly press inward, making the liquid disappear into his arm. I rubbed his back a little harder and felt his legs go out. I brought him down slowly onto the table. His eyes were wide and unchanged, and he still felt warm.

“Is he dead already?” I asked.

“Just about,” the vet said.

We sat in silence. She put her fingers against his bloody arm, I assume to feel for a pulse. She closed her eyes, and I think she was counting. After enough time, she pulled away to wash her hands. I stepped into the back.

“Should I get the thicker bag? I asked.

“Yes, I think so,” she said.

I pulled out a heavy-duty trash bag and brought it back to the lab. I opened the bag and placed it on the table behind him. The opened portion faced his backside, like a mouth ready to eat. I lifted his back legs and slid one end of the open bag underneath him. I moved carefully so that I wouldn’t touch his ruptured tumor. It was multiple shades of red, much of it already crusted. The vet returned and lifted his head, and we slid the rest of him inside the bag. His legs curled up against his chest as he slipped further down. I saw his head fall on top of his curled paws. She lifted the bag so that the mouth faced the ceiling, and we both squeezed the sides to let the air out. She twisted the mouth and tied it down.

“Did you get his weight?” she asked.

“50.8,” I said.

She wrote the weight on a pink paper, and then tied the paper to the bag’s knot. She walked past me and opened the storage freezer, a rectangular white box about three feet high. I lifted the bag. It was heavy, still warm. I lowered him into the freezer. There were no others inside. We closed the door.

“Great way to start the morning,” she said.

I nodded and returned to my desk