Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Dabney's Last Ride

May 23 2005
Two Hours Ago

Penny MacPherson


Papa walks Dabney out to the van,
patting his head goodbye with tears in his eyes,
he walks back to the house.

I rub shoulders with the heat
that wants to smother us as we ride in the van…

There is the  sick smell of the yellow pus that
drips from his nose…

The awful quietness of him mills around my mind, waiting,
as I stroke him, feather fingers gliding slowly with tenderness,
afraid of my touch hurting him
as the moments crawl along…

Wondering, "Is this the last turn before we get there?"
the sound of the directional signal unleashes another coil of nausea
and the queasiness of squeamish heart moves up into my throat
leaving a lump that grows bigger and tighter the farther we go…

How the van shivers in empathy
as we round the last turn into the animal hospital…

How Dabney's ears perk up
at the sound of another dog's soprano barking…

and how he starts to pant
From the heat? From nervousness?

Tears welling, as I drag my hand across the page,
forcing my fingers to hold the pen
to sign my uneven, disconnected signature
with aimless strokes that couldn't say a thing…

Walking into the room, at first to sit primly
on a hard wooden bench,
then crouching in a squat
to give hands and fingers easier access to his tired, aging body…

Asking what time we arrived.
Punctuality neither compromised nor forsaken,
We were there fifteen minutes before our three o'clock appointment…

My mother saying, "It's okay Dabney.
You'll be at rest with Jana now. Grandpa and I will be with you soon,"
"Isn't losing Dabney enough?
Will you force this other thought on me too?"
and I feel the bottom drop out…

The quiet gentleness of the nurse and doctor,
spread a shawl of satin comfort,
and I remember to thank God for them…

The vet shaving away hair on two legs, to find a good vein
that will take the needle…

Telling the vet that I had been down this path before with
another guide dog--my golden retriever, Jana…

Amazing presence of mind to ask for a lock of Dabney's hair,
in a pinched voice that could hardly be heard…

Wondering, "Did he put the needle in yet?"

Hearing, feeling compassion in the nurse's sniffles…

The vet whispering, over me, in soft-spoken compassion
"He's gone."

Thinking, "But he's still warm. He's not stiff yet."
We don't stay long enough for that…

Blowing my nose again…

Kneeling down to hug and kiss him three times, before
tearing myself away…

Hauling myself up, grasping the corner of a table for support,
being guided from the room, hearing the door drawn shut behind us…

Walking out of the building without him…

Sitting alone in the van, tears breaking loose again…

Thinking that it wasn't any easier this time around…

Thinking how much shorter the ride home is…

How empty the van feels on the way home…

Mindscapes of Dabney in his youth…

I can't bring myself to say goodbye this 23rd of May, 2005…

My spoken words are trapped behind
barricades of grief… But I can write…     

___

Penny MacPherson offers poetry workshops at Mary Giella Elementary School in Spring Hill, Florida. Her work has appeared in such publications as: Just Another Writing Magazine; Beginnings: a Magazine for Emerging Writers; Access; Expressions; The Post Star; Discovery: the John Milton Magazine; and Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal.

© Penny MacPherson

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012