I Was Never Good to My Dog Until I Had to Put Him Down
Lately to find him in the corner, panting against a wall,
as if he were trying to prove he still had breath,
a jellied string of blood and snot from his nose, fluid stiffening
in the lungs, across the eyes like wax, paw-scratching
to push a cement truck off his snout, and some odor
that must have been his organs, purple cankers.
That he could have survived is not in doubt. You know,
assuming we know the affected area, it can be treated—but…
said the balding, butternut-squash-bodied doctor…at his age…
And in the veterinary’s Exam Room #1, the dog’s arthritic hips
tested the tile, needing to stand instead, just to breathe
and drooling bungee cords stretched to their maximum point
before needing to whoosh back up in heavy tongues of air or
Something in us that is neither human nor inhuman looks
at suffering, always for life, prefers even its briefest,
most fragile grace. Even while convulsing, the heart
murmurs, a noticeable beat. But torn.
If you could put him on the table. There will be two shots.
Hold him there. The first will numb him. There you go.
Then the second. Steady his body. Help him
lie down. Sometimes breath is held by the lungs
then suddenly released.
The doctor turned away, picking up the Y of the stethoscope,
measuring the heartbeat. Three times, picking the metallic ear up
and listening again. His eyes left and right, seeing what he could
hear. Nothing. Everything’s stopped now.
Would you like a moment by yourself with your dog?
No, I said, patting the black shag of his belly. And waited
for the doctor to leave, to press my lips against the hair-perm
crinkle of his ear, saying bark baby, bark