You are on your way home from work. It's been a long day and you're tired. All you want to do is get home, take a shower, and go to bed. As you're driving, your cell phone rings. It's your dad.
"Are you on your way home?"
"Yeah. What's up?"
"I just walked in the door, and something is wrong with Trouble."
"I'm on my way." You click the phone off and toss it into the passenger's seat. Your foot gets heavier on the gas pedal as you drive faster. All kinds of thoughts run through your head.
You walk in the door to find your faithful dog, Trouble, lying on her right side in front of the sliding glass door on the hardwood floor. She looks strange. You know something is wrong. Her breathing is labored. She has not been able to control her bowels as evidence by the surrounding area. She can't get up. You can tell she has tried by the swirls around her.
When she sees you, she raises her head and tries with all her might to get up. Her back legs will not allow her to get up. You run from the door and hit the ground beside her hard. "Someone get some towels and call the vet."
You wrap her in the towels as you check to see what's hurt. As if you know exactly what you are doing, you take your hands over her frail body pushing slightly to see if she has any reaction. She makes no movement. You are finished with your exam of her. No clue what is wrong.
While sitting on the floor you pick her up still wrapped in the towel. You place her bottom on your legs and hold her close to your chest. She is breathing hard. She looks up at you with her big brown, puppy dog eyes as if to say, "Mom, what's wrong with me? What's going on? Please help me. Make this better."
You put one arm around her, and with the other you rub her head. You bend down and whisper in her ear, "It's okay. You're gonna be okay. Momma loves you little Trouble girl. Just hang in there sweetie." You begin to rock back and forth like you would a baby to calm it down.
Your mom walks over and hands you the phone. It's the vet. When you hear his voice, a part of you calms down while another part begins to freak out. You tell him everything you know, which is nothing. You demand that he meet you at his office even though it is 10 p.m. He agrees.
With help from your mom and dad, you get up off the floor still holding Trouble in your arms like a baby. Your mom says, "I'll drive."
The ride to the vet feels like an eternity. Trouble is breathing harder and shaking. You rock her back and forth and keep saying, "It's okay. You're gonna be okay. I promise. Momma's here."
You arrive and the vet is already there. Without dropping Trouble or falling out the car, you place one foot on the unsure ground underneath you. The walk from the car to the door seems longer than you remember. You walk in and the stillness almost stops your heart. No one else is there. Just the vet, your mom, you, and the dog you have loved for the past 14 years. You walk straight to the exam room. No receptionist. No polite chit-chat.
You walk into the room you have been in many times before, but the mood is different this time. There are no smiles or laughs only serious looks and worry.
"Let's take a look and see what's going on."
You place her on the always cold, stainless steel table and unwrap the towel without ever removing your arms from around her. She needs to know you are there although it's just as much comfort for you as it is for her. The vet begins his exam.
He pushes on her stomach. He looks in her eyes, ears, and mouth. He listens to her heartbeat and her breathing. He feels down each leg and over her back with no reaction from Trouble. He looks up at you with an unsure look on his face.
"Honestly I am not sure what it is. We can give her something to ease her pain and help her through the night, and you can bring her back in the morning" You nod in agreement. He leaves to get the shot.
You hold Trouble and rock back and forth until the vet comes back with the syringe of blue meds. You ask, "Before you give her that shot, I need what it is and what it is going to do?"
You are told that the injection is to control her pain, relax her breathing, and ease her for the rest of the night.
"Is she going to be able to walk again? Is she going to be able to get her breathing back to normal?"
"Well, she is 14 years old, and she is not in good health. We know that she has heart worms, and we know that she has this newly found immunity problem that we are treating. She may not ever get better."
You ask with tears rolling down your face, "Is she in pain?" The vet nods yes. You make eye contact with your mom and nod your head. She knows what you want her to say. Your mom in a weak voice says, "Do you think it is time to put her down? We do not want her to suffer?"
As that point tears gush down your face like someone turned on a valve. I cried and cried. The ugly kind of cry were can't get any air in, make up is running all down your face, snorting, snot running from your nose, your face is all red, crying. It is not pretty, but you do not care one bit. You have never cried with such pure emotions in front of anyone before.
The vet said that choice was up to you but it would not be a bad idea. Once again you nod yes. The vet leaves to get the other shot. You ask for a moment alone with Trouble.
"Take all the time you need."
You bend down and hold Trouble tight. You kiss her on her head. You lift up her ear and say, "Momma loves her little Trouble girl. It's okay to go. I know you've been fighting for a long time. It's okay. I love you with all my heart. You are such a good girl. You have always been a good girl. I love you, Trouble."
You motion for your mom to come in. She says her goodbyes to Trouble as well. You never let go of Trouble. You hold her with the same firmness so she will know you are there. Your mom gets the vet, and he comes in. In his hand he has hair clippers and a big pink syringe full of medication. It was a pretty color of pink. Very bright.
He takes the right front leg of Trouble and shaves a small patch on her leg. She does not seem to mind at all. You are talking to her the entire time. Telling her she is a good girl. That it is all going to be okay. That you will stay right here with her. The vet looks up at you and says, "Are you sure you want to stay?' You had never stayed before. All the other animals you had to have put down were so bad that they did not know if you were there or not. Trouble knew you were there, so of course you stay. You nod yes.
Your mom comes up from behind you and has her arm around you and one hand on Trouble. You are leaning over her on the table with her in your arms. The vet takes her right front leg and wipes it with an alcohol wipe. You then know there is no turning back. You know you have to do this. You know it is the right thing to do but that does not make it hurt any less. You put your face right beside Trouble's face. The vet starts the medication slowly. You whisper, "I love you Trouble girl. You're a good girl. It's okay. I love you Trouble girl. You're a good girl. It's okay." You hear a noise and then you feel her take her last breathe. All of the sudden she is gone. She went peacefully to sleep, with you holding her, telling her you loved her.
You have just lost one of the most important things in your life, but it has made you realize that when it is your turn to go, you hope that you can be with the person you love most in this world and that they will be whispering in your ear, "I love you. You're a good girl. It's okay."
Robin Ricketts is a thirty-five-year-old, non-traditional senior attending the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is a Communications major with a minor in English. Robin will graduate in December of 2009. She plans to be a TV News Producer. She lives in Martin with her dog Murray.