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The first time I saw her it was raining.
I was crying. She was laughing.
Actually I heard her before I saw her. I was leaning against the Jeep clutching Casey’s leash and collar. My joyous and beautiful chocolate Lab had come down with cancer of the spleen at the age of seven. She suffered stoically for three months until I realized that keeping her alive any longer was solely for my benefit and not hers. Twenty minutes earlier I had held Casey’s right front paw as Dr. Renee Martin shaved and cleaned a small patch of skin on her left leg. I lay on the floor beside Casey and stroked her velvety smooth ears. Casey’s ears were legendary. Over the years I had come across countless young children who were nervous or frightened around dogs. Casey was a sure-fire cure for their fear. I would have her sit quietly as I held out one of her ears for the child to touch. I demonstrated how to fondle it between thumb and forefinger as though appraising the quality of a fine fabric. I don’t know if dogs have a G-spot, but this was truly the epicenter of pure ecstasy for Casey. Her eyes glazed over and her tongue peeked out ever so slightly from the front of her closed mouth. She would emit whisper-quiet murmurs and push her head tightly against whatever hand was doing the stroking, determined to extract every ounce of pleasure from the moment. I used to call it aural sex.
This time, however, this final time, I don’t think she felt anything but sadness and pain. We locked eyes as we often did, but there was no look of excitement on Casey’s part about an impending walk, a ride in the car, or one of my mom’s homemade dog biscuits. All I could see through my own tearful eyes was a look of resignation. It was time. Casey knew it and I knew it.
“Are you ready, Adam?” asked Renee.
I looked up at her, the only vet Casey or I had ever known, and nodded.
Renee knelt on the floor and offered Casey a treat shaped like a squirrel, but my usually ravenous companion had stopped eating the night before and refused this treat as well.
“You’re doing the right thing,” said Renee.
I placed my hand on Casey’s head when Renee injected the fatal solution. Within seconds Casey’s pain faded away and mine forever heightened.
Since then I’d been standing in the rain not wanting to return to the apartment I shared with Casey but not knowing where else to go.
“You do what you want, but I wouldn’t go out with him in five-and-a-half million years.”
Those were the first words I heard Nina speak.
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