I killed my dog. I didn’t shoot her. I didn’t hit her with a shovel. I didn’t do anything gruesome to her. She got sick. He body failed her, and her back legs became paralyzed. Her spine looked lost beneath her brown fur. It was a broken road, with no streetlights or signs to guide the nerve cells traveling down its empty highways. She’d drag her body around with so much effort, her neck was over extended, like the planet itself was pulling on her body viciously with a phantom leash.
Watching her slowly dislocate her shoulders against the earth’s gravitational field made me hate the forces that make our planet spin and time pass. Death can make you hate anything, even the astronomical truths that govern our existence.
Millie was a miniature dachshund. Her body was frail from her genetic beginning, but the kidney failure and paralysis made her even worse. Her form was so stretched by the end. Her eyes knew it was over. They shook like little dark rocks against some white water washed against shore. They were telling me to do it. They were begging me. I could’ve kept her alive longer. I could’ve implanted metal, machines, and medications in her like she was some sort of undead cyborg from a Tim Burton film. I didn’t. I put her down. I watched her body wheeze and tilt on a metal table beneath a fluorescent light. It was still better than watching her trying to drag herself through the grass and panting after a just few inches. It was still better than expressing her urine with my hands until an inky trail of blood and bile stained my jeans.
I did the right thing by putting her down.
I still killed her though. This cannot be denied. Living with me through my depression was like being in orbit around a black hole. I was constantly pulling on her life, even if it wasn’t intentional. How many times did she shiver with me underneath the covers of my bed not wanting to get up in the morning? How many times did she cower beneath a couch or chair when I smashed my fists into the wall from another failed friendship or relationship? How many times did she think I was okay?
I know it hurt her. I would have to be completely out of touch with reality if it didn’t. You’re depression, mental illness, addictions, and every other monster you’re fighting in the corners of your soul, well, it will take its toll on the things around you. Don’t think it won’t. Don’t think just because there is superficial kindness, love, or affection that the organism you’ve nearly crushed beneath your microscope isn’t afraid of you.
I moved my dog everywhere. I had a volatile relationships in front of her. I was impatient with her on walks. I overfed her treats. I didn’t pay attention to what dog food she was eating. I was too selfish and ignorant to own a dog, but I needed that unconditional love. I needed her. She saved my life countless times. She grounded me against swarms of change and inaction.
My life was a living tempest. It was constant emotional turmoil. With her I always pictured a massive frigate, like the ones that don’t even look they’re moving when they’re traveling. I imagine it twisting against mountains of froth in some typhoon from a Jules Verne book. The juggernaut’s curved hull of iron doesn’t buckle to the primal smashing of the hurricane. It is anchored. It is controlled by a mile-long chained hook into the earth. A tether. A rope. Millie was this for me. Millie connected me to the most basic unconditional love imaginable. This kept me from capsizing.
The storm is unending. There were times where she made it calm and bearable. She lasted ironically enough right up until when my twin sons were born. Her body failed just days after we brought them home from the hospital. It was like her cells knew. They held out until she knew that my two sons would give me the unconditional love I needed to survive any size storm. She’s gone now. I don’t know that I’ll ever see her again. She doesn’t have to worry about me anymore.
She can rest.
When I put her down, and the vet put syringe after syringe into her quivering side like she was practicing for an exam, I kept thinking to myself that I needed her, but that I’d be okay. I miss her savagely, but besides keeping me alive, she also taught me how hard the black hole can be on the energy around it. My sadness has the ability to twist, rip, render, and discombobulate. It can literally alter the natural laws around me. My tiny, wire-haired dachshund who loved to have her belly rubbed, bore the brunt of my cosmic torrents. She taught me that I needed to control this depression, this mental illness, or I will literally drain the life out of the people around me like some zombie-wild alien from a 50’s horror film.
Get help in whatever form you can. For me, it was therapist who steered my depression into the very nonfiction writing you see before you You may have been saddled with a black hole, but do not let it control you. You must become king, queen, tyrant, dictator, and chief of the dark matter. You must embrace this void, and command it, or it else it will destroy the world around you.
No matter how much you love it.