Not My Best Friend

22 Apr

Ann called me at work and during the conversation let slip that she’d passed by the animal shelter that afternoon. Warning bells rang in my head. We already had six cats and two dogs and we’d agreed that bringing any new animal into the house would be a family decision.

“You were just passing by?”

“Yeah.”

“Isn’t the animal shelter on a side street? And the parking lot is flooded and you have to walk over a 2 by4 to get to the front door?”

“Yeah…”

“Did you get a dog?”

“No.”

“You know our agreement.”

“I didn’t get a dog.”

“Let me talk to Devon.”

Devon came on the line and I asked, “So what are we going to name the dog?”

“We’re thinkin’ Buddy is a pretty good name.”

I couldn’t fault Ann for her compassion, but Buddy was a complete mess. He was a scruffy and aged poodle whose days were numbered. His white fur was stained yellow and brown and he looked as though he spent years in the lap of a chain-smoking trailer trash granny. He had a huge pair of misshapen black balls that hung to the floor. When approached he’d bare his lower teeth in a snarl, showing ugly little stumps. He never showed any interest in the family and instantly set in to terrorizing our cats.

Buddy lived with us for a few years before going into a steep decline. He was suffering and it was clear that the only humane thing to do was put him down. As usual, we were broke. A friend of Ann’s knew someone who euthanized animals at half what a vet would charge. Anything to do with death was always my job; Ann was good at saving animals, but when it was time to bury a cat it would be me on my hands and knees in the dark, digging a hole.

Ann told me, “He’s going to be at the Ross Junction – the crossroads. He’ll have a green pickup. His name is John.”

I put Buddy in the back of my Rav 4. He was shivering and baring his lower teeth.

On the drive to the junction a white plastic bag blew across the road, the same size, shape and color as Buddy. It unsettled me. I had a living animal in my back seat that I was going to hand over to be killed, no questions asked. I didn’t like it. But I didn’t like being broke. And I didn’t like Buddy.

The handover at the junction didn’t take more than a minute. I gave John $20 and he drove off with Buddy in the bed of his pickup.

On the way home, a black plastic bag blew across the road, the same size and shape as Buddy.

(2005)

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