ROSS IN RANGE
Feeling Like the Scum of the Earth, or
No Catchy Title for This Column
By John Ross
Copyright 2004 by John Ross. Electronic reproduction of this article freely permitted provided it is reproduced in its entirety with attribution given.
I killed my dog today.
Molly was the best dog I’ve ever had, a very handsome mixed breed that looked like she was half Australian Shepherd, and half something else. Like all good dogs, she thought her owner was the most wonderful person in the world who could do no wrong.
We got her from my friend Ray, who restores vintage Corvettes. His wife had found her, abandoned, walking along the side of the road. She must have been abandoned that same day, because she wasn’t malnourished or afraid of people, but had no collar or tags. Ray was keeping her at his shop. When he found out we were looking for a dog, he told me I could have her if I wanted, since he already had two Dalmatians. I took her home that day. My wife and stepdaughter named her Molly. That was in 1990.
I won’t go into all the endearing dog things she did over the years, except to say she was always glad to see me, loved children, and was happiest sitting with her head on my leg, having her ears and spine scratched.
When Caroline moved out four years ago, she took Molly. She told me later she had planned to leave her so that when I came home the house wouldn’t be completely empty and the shock wouldn’t be quite so bad, but the girls had started crying, so Molly went with them. She was so glad to see me every time I’d come by for my daughter that I still felt like she was my dog.
Like all creatures that don’t die young, Molly got old. Her eyes got milky-looking, and her balance got worse, but she always knew where she was going, and never bumped into anything, at least not while I was around.
A few weeks ago, Molly started bleeding from her nose. The vet gave Caroline some medicines, but said that if they didn’t have any effect, Molly probably had cancer. He’d have to cut her open and look, and since Molly was at least 14 ½ years old, there wouldn’t be much he could do.
The drugs didn’t help. This morning, Caroline called, crying. She’d arisen to find the house spattered everywhere with blood. Molly had to cough and sneeze to clear it out of her lungs and head, and she was spraying blood all over. I told Caroline I’d be over mid-afternoon. There were some things I needed to do first.
When I went over to pick her up, Molly was just as glad to see me as ever. We drove out to my mother’s place in the country. I rolled the passenger window down, so Molly could stick her head out the car window and feel the breeze. I had to drive very slowly when rounding corners, or she’d get unbalanced and fall off the seat.
There were two one-pound ribeye steaks in Mom’s refrigerator, and I cooked them up, medium rare. I cut one of them into little pieces and laid the plate on the kitchen floor. By the time I had taken the first bite of my steak, Molly was finishing hers, so I cut up the second steak and gave her that one, too. She had a decent appetite for a 45-pound dog with internal bleeding.
We went outside, and Molly trotted around, stumbling occasionally, but gamely chasing off any squirrels bold enough to venture near. Even though she hadn’t been there for four years, it was still her territory.
Soon she got tired. The exertion had made her lungs fill with blood again, and she began coughing and sneezing to clear it out. There was a lot of it. Animals can’t complain or even let you know when they’re in pain, they just soldier on.
I sat down in the grass in the shade, near the grave I’d already dug, and Molly came over and lay down on her stomach next to me. I scratched her ears and her spine and she wagged her tail gently. After a while, Molly’s eyes closed, but her tail still made slight twitches. When even these stopped, I knew she was asleep. Without stopping my gentle scratching along her spine, I picked up the suppressed Ruger with my free hand and held the muzzle an inch from the base of her skull.
I was crying when I did it, just like I am now.
She wasn’t going to die at the hands of a stranger, under fluorescent lights on a cold stainless steel table in a room stinking of antiseptics.
Molly deserved better than that. She was the best dog I ever had.
John Ross 9/14/2004