One day, Papá sent me to bring in some groceries from his truck. I opened the door and the first things I saw were two little paws on the floorboard. Then out from under the seat poked a tiny, wet nose, and then the two biggest, most soulful puppy-dog eyes I had ever seen peeked up at me.
And so I met Sarge.
He was rambunctious, always a troublemaker. He never grew out of his puppyish behavior, just upgraded it. Instead of terrorizing birds, he went after porcupines. Instead of chasing soccer balls, he took up cars. Unfortunately, cars are much faster, much stronger, than half-deflated soccer balls.
Even so, he could do no wrong; he was my baby.
Sarge was only seven years old, but he had been hit and rolled so many times, his arthritis made him 14. Some days, it would hurt him so bad, he would whine with every step he took. When my parents said it was time, I swallowed at the lump in my throat and told myself not to be so pathetic.
I didn’t think I would cry.
I hated the thought of being so weak, but I hated the thought of losing my friend more. As I watched him shudder and grow still, the tears won out and broke free in wracking sobs. I was not allowed to touch him. His eyes were still open. I expected that at any moment he would jump up and whine to go home.
He didn’t move. He didn’t blink. He didn’t breathe…and I knew he was gone.
A few days later, I had a dream. I saw Sarge running towards me, and I was so happy to see him. But I knew it couldn’t really be him; he was dead, gone. He could never come back. As he grew closer, I realized he was so much smaller, his spots seeming to have shrunk to fit his diminished form.
He was young again, the same little puppy I had discovered in my father’s truck.
He let me hold him; let me hug him around his neck. I could feel his fur on my face; smell that doggy scent I never thought I would miss so much.
I cried, and I said goodbye.
I have to believe he is happy now, as he was then, before age and circumstance made his young body so old. This I believe: despite what we are taught, despite having it drilled into our heads that ‘killing is wrong,’ sometimes, death is a mercy.
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