When I pulled in to the veterinarian’s office, the red-bearded man with the brindle boxer was standing out front.
Maggie was fluctuating between ecstasy and fear. She had been delighted when she got to go for a ride in the car, but she recognized the building when we pulled in. The dog out front delighted her — Maggie is very social — but the door just beyond terrified.
She jumped willingly out of the car. The boxer squared off in the middle of the sidewalk.
It was a big dog, solidly built. She laid claim to the sidewalk, blocking our way to the entrance. The man made no move to move her. I nudged Maggie to my right side so I would be between her and the boxer. I knew Maggie would want to give an exuberant hello and I wasn’t the boxer shared the sentiment.
The man watched me shift Maggie.
“Don’t worry,” he said, “she can’t see nothing.”
I had already launched into my usual Maggie’s-biggest-problem-is-she’s-overly-friendly line when I heard him add as we passed, “She’s dying anyway.”
His words seeped in as I took Maggie through the door.
I should go out and say something, I thought, as I sat on the bench in the waiting room, but Maggie had already started her shiver-and-shed routine. She really doesn’t like visiting the vet.
While calming Maggie, I made small talk with a woman who had worked with my father. Her cat waited quietly in a red backpack cat carrier on the bench next to her. We waited and chatted while people dropped off and picked up their cats, mostly. Through a window, I could see the man with the brindle boxer standing outside, still owning the sidewalk, although it looked a lot less like ownership now.
A technician came out and called a name. Three people, a woman roughly my age and two young adult children, stood. The girl went outside and came back in with the man and the boxer.
“We have a private room here,” said the technician as she opened a door behind her.
I couldn’t see the other faces, but I could see the man, pressing his lips together, the corners of his mouth turned down, as he slowly led the boxer in. A few minutes later, the girl came out again, her eyes red and puffy. She went outside and came back with an older man, who walked very slowly.
The door to the room opened.
“Pop, we’re in here,” said the red-bearded man. His voice broke.
The girl followed her grandfather. She was openly weeping now. With her back to me, I saw the large sparkly letters on her gray hoodie — “LOVE LOVE PINK.”
I wished I could magically change it to read “LOVE LOVE BRINDLE” because I knew that’s what she was feeling.
The small talk ended. My father’s friend and I both watched the drama with heavy laden eyes as the family closed the door to their private room at the vet.
“So hard,” she whispered to me.
Yet, we were witness to a well-loved dog surrounded at the end by three generations.
Sometimes the most terrible things are also the most beautiful.