Slowly he opened his eyes. The sunlight momentarily blinded him as he attempted to focus on his surroundings. He was lying on his rug in the family room. A fire was roaring in the fireplace, the heat flowing over him like a warm blanket. He faced the fire, causing drowsiness to overcome him. His hindquarters faced the opposite direction and the sunbeams came through the window, bouncing off his rump, shimmering and glistening as he enjoyed it. Closing his eyes again, he started drifting off to sleep.

Maine winters could be brutal. From late October until the first of April, there was always snow on the ground. In his younger years, he had always enjoyed the snow and cold, he loved to roll in it and get it in his mouth, then race madly for the house where he would shake it off all over everything. Now, in his golden years, the comfort of the heat was more important.

An enticing aroma was coming from the kitchen. He could smell chicken, fried chicken. He had always loved it and until his teeth had gone bad it had been something that he ate every time he could beg and receive it. Now he could barely chew it and it had been banned. Scrambled eggs and crumbled bacon had replaced it. Of course, he still ate his soft dog food, but he still got the eggs and bacon. Sadly, not much tasted good to him anymore.

Someone came into the room. His eyesight had been going bad, something called cataracts had settled in. His nose told him who it was. Bobby. It was Bobby! He slowly attempted to get up to meet him and because of the stiffness in his joints slumped back to his resting place. Bobby sat down beside him, took his head into his lap, and cried.

“Dinner’s ready,” called his mom.

Bobby got up and motioned for Rollie to follow him.

Dinner was a somber affair. Bobby picked at his food and the only bright spot was slipping Rollie pieces of chicken. All too soon it was over.

“Bobby, it's time. Let’s get Rollie into the car,” his dad gently called.

“Come, Rollie, come on,” coaxed Bobby.

With a whimper, Rollie slowly got to his feet. Each step was agonizing as he followed Bobby to the door. His mom bent down, stroked his ears, told him goodbye, and started softly crying. His dad helped Bobby get Rollie in the back seat of the Jeep.

“Dad, can I sit with him, please? Bobby asked as he fought off the tears.

“Yes, I’ll take my time getting there,” his dad answered.

All too soon they were there. His dad pulled into the Veterinary Clinic lot, parked, and waited.

“Dad, do we have to?”

“Bobby, you know the answer. It’s not fair to Rollie. He hurts so bad. Do you want him to suffer?”

Bobby shook his head no. He rubbed Rollie’s ears, finding the sweet spots. Rollie snuggled closer and sighed, then licked Bobby’s fingers in gratitude.

“Bobby, it's time to go in. Our appointment is right now. We have to go.”

Softly crying, Bobby opened the door and helped Rollie get out of the back seat. When Rollie’s feet hit the pavement he whimpered, stretched, and took a couple of wobbly steps.

When they walked through the clinic door the receptionist motioned for them to follow her. She led them into an empty examination room. Rollie plopped down on the floor and closed his eyes, he was hurting too bad to be wary of where he was.

The door opened and the vet walked in carrying a syringe.

“Hello, Bobby,” he said.

“Hello, Doctor Anderson,” he sobbed.

“Bobby, you know why this has to happen, don’t you?”

“Yes,” he answered through his tears, “Rollie hurts so bad he cries and whines whenever he moves. Isn’t there anything you can do? I love him. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. We grew up together.”

“I know, Bobby, this is hard, but Rollie is in bad shape and there is nothing I can do. You don’t want to see him suffer anymore, do you? He can barely see and your dad says that he is having a hard time controlling his bowels, and he’s peeing in the house. He probably hurts too bad to get up and go outside so it’s easier for him to do it in the house,” he asked.

Bobby shook his head no.

“I want you to sit down and lay his head in your lap. Rub his ears, pet him, reassure him that you are there. Can you do that?”

“Will it hurt him? I don’t want it to hurt him,” Bobby cried.

“He won’t feel a thing. Trust me.”

Bobby sat down beside Rollie and laid his head in his lap. As the vet inserted the syringe Rollie squirmed and then looked Bobby in the eye. As the light flickered out in his eyes Bobby cried out and pulled Rollie into his lap and hugged him.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. The vet excused himself and left them alone.

“Bobby, I am proud of you. Let’s take Rollie home. We’ll bury him under the oak tree. The one where the squirrels drove him crazy. That’s where he belongs. What do you think?” asked his dad.

“Ok, Dad,” he answered.

Later they put a marker over Rollie’s grave. “Here lies Rollie. Bobby’s best friend.”

June 23, 2019