Outdoor writing runner-up: Bye Best Friend
I’m so tired. My bones ache. I can’t see well. My nose is dry. My whole body hurts.
I started to feel sick months ago. It’s just gotten worse over time.
Sometimes I can barely stand. It’s so hard to get up from my rug to greet my family. When they bring me food in the metal dish, I’m not hungry. I just want to rest.
The garage is nice and warm compared to the crisp, early spring air. My brown fur keeps me warm, and sometimes my family will bring out a heat lamp for me to lay beside.
David, my human, often comes to the garage to pet me. It feels so good. I love him so much.
Tonight my whole family comes to the garage to pet me. They’re all sad – I can feel it. I wish I could lick their faces and jump up on them to make them happy again, but it’s painful to get up right now. A truck pulls up in the driveway, and I don’t have the energy to bark.
Two men get out, and David greets them. Why is everyone crying?
“Come here, Miss,” David calls to me. I try to get up, shaking a bit. I have to obey. Someone helps me stand fully. I’m grateful. Slowly I walk toward David, who picks me up and sets me in the back of the truck. It used to be hard to lift me – I was a Lab of 90 pounds. Now I’m maybe 70 pounds at most.
I suppose I’m going somewhere. My family leans over the truck bed to pet me once more before the door of the pick-up closes.
The truck engine roars as the pick-up begins to move. It’s nice to feel the wind again. I wonder where we’re going. I hope it’s not another camping trip – I don’t feel like swimming in a lake or retrieving anything today.
After a little while, the truck slows to a stop. David helps me out, and I can’t believe my eyes. A beautiful view stands before me. We’re on top of a hill, looking out over rolling farmland. The burnished sun is turning the sky orange and has begun to hide behind distant hills. The soft grass and dirt feels good on my paws.
David walks me around, letting me sniff anything I want. After a few minutes, I pause to rest and look up at him. He stands by me. He kneels down and rubs his fingers behind my ears. He’s talking to me in his language. I don’t understand, but I let him talk anyway.
“I remember when you were a puppy. You fell asleep right on my chest when we brought you home.”
I wonder what he’s saying. From his voice, I can tell he’s happy with me, but still sad. How confusing.
“I also remember that time when we went out to the lake and you swam after ducks. Heh, you really went after them. Good thing those people in that boat picked you up, so you didn’t drown all the way out there.”
He laughed. But now he’s sad again.
I wonder why he’s sad, but also happy. Is it even possible to feel two emotions at once – “Lori really appreciated you staying home with her when she was alone” – especially those two emotions. Sadness and happiness don’t seem to mix to me.
“Those nights when I couldn’t sleep and I came out to the deck. We sat together and looked up at that beautiful Montana sky. I’ll miss you…,” and he starts to cry.
I listen and do not understand.
“I love you, too, David,” I think. “I love you so much.”
Soon, he stands and wipes his eyes. He then starts walking toward the two men, calling my name softly. I turn and see that the men have dug a hole.
David calls my name again, and I understand. I am relieved. Slowly, I walk over to him and then step down into the hole. Painfully, I lie down without being told to, and rest my head on my paws, looking up over the magnificent sky. The smell of rich soil is soothing, sweet.
David wipes his eyes again, and walks away. One of the men pats my head while the other fiddles with a metal object in his hands. It clicks, and I close my eyes as the cool metal touches my head. When I open them again, I find myself in a better place.
My bones don’t ache. I can see better. My nose is wet. I’m without pain.