A Friend's Farewell
by Mark Simpson
I had expected the worst. Luckily however, when the heater blew most of the water had run harmlessly under the garage door. The clutter in its path was soaked, but mostly junk that needed sorting anyway. A blast of spaniel hits me when I pull a forgotten kennel crate from the debris. Moses was a water dog and that's how water dogs smell; he always had that oily sweetness about him even after a bath. I can't believe it's been over a year.
I'm home at midnight and Moses won't come in from the yard. I carry him in, but he refuses to stand so I carry him to the car. I pace the waiting room while they run up the bill with tests. A woman sobs in her chair. It's mid-morning before the vet calls me in.
"We found a tumor."
I steel myself.
She points to a cloud. "Probably pancreatic."
"He's been acting normal. Better, actually."
"His breed has a high tolerance for pain."
Moses is drugged and groggy, but still slips by the nurse when she opens the door. She is carrying a syringe. They find him outside eating grass and lead him back to the room. He doesn't wonder why my bird hunting vest lines the bottom of a cardboard box.
His gold eyes are locked with mine as their light fades, and his head settles softly on folded paws. Graceful even in death. I stroke his glossy coat, kiss him for the last time and breathe his oily sweetness. Bye, buddy. See you on the other side. Moses doesn't get to say goodbye. I waive away the orderly, lift him into the box myself and we go home.
I process my roommate's words. She is crying. "Moses got into that bucket of chicken in the trash. I cleaned it up before you got home."
Digging garbage for his cast-iron stomach was the only bad habit I hadn't been able to break him of. Damned trash digger. Crushed chicken bones would make a nice cloud on an x-ray. It sinks in that I euthanized my dog over a stomach ache.
Moses glides over from across the street. He moves with the ease of an athlete, and even at twelve could easily work the creek bottoms all day for birds. I scratch his soft ears as he leans and wriggles into my leg. With a last look he glides away. I call once but he doesn't turn. Moses knows something I don't. He's telling me to take care. He's telling me it's okay. I wake and cry.
The towel in the crate is matted with dark brown fur and I hang it to dry. I place the kennel in the donation pile and grab another box, hesitate, retrieve the crate and place it on a shelf. I walk inside, open my laptop, and type into the search bar: Boykin Spaniel Puppies, Montana