I'll admit, I've been very lucky, somehow I have managed to traverse the halls of life untouched by death. That is, I've never had to watch someone I loved die. No doubt, this record will not stand, but as it is I remain somewhat unscathed. However, I once held my best friend's head in my lap while a stranger injected Pentobarbitol in to his veins and proceeded to euthanize him.
His name was Luke and I had known him since I was a boy.
When I left my house in Michigan to head to the University of Montana, the hardest person to say goodbye to was Luke. When I returned in the summers, the "person" most excited to see me was Luke. When I first got high, Luke was there taking in the "air" and when I first got drunk, his dish was full of beer. He was my wingman and could woe the cutest girls to my side. In short, he was my best friend.
Note to the reader, as I write this I am crying, I had sought out to write a straight forward account of what it's like to put down "man's best friend" but I'm toast....please forgive any sentimentality to come. -Such is the power of a friend, a dog... and if we must regal him as such, a "pet".
My dad referred to Luke as our "retarded brother", I know it's not PC but it is what it is. He was family. When we chose his name my mother (at the time a brand spanking new catholic) was excited that it was the name of a book in the bible and we (my brother and sister and I) were all thinking Skywalker. -the name stuck.
Although Luke and I were close, there was nobody closer to him than my father. Every morning at about 6 am they would go outside together and my dad would throw the ball or the frisbee for him. -Like clockwork, they had a date every single day of Luke's life. My dad drove an old truck that had a growling engine and whenever he was within 1/2 a mile of the house Luke would run to the front door in anticipation.
Every December, my parents left elaborate christmas gifts in the mailbox for our mailman. Why? Because Luke hated the shit out of him. Every single day around 2pm the mailman would walk to our door to drop off our goods and every single day Luke would charge at the front door in defense of our property. We had a front door with 8 glass panels and my father had to replace the bottom 4 panels many times because Luke charged so hard that his head went through the glass. -Crazy dog, but all out of love and defense of us.
My dad's favorite past-time is hunting for morel mushrooms. He used to take Luke with him in to the back woods of southeastern Michigan to help find his treasures. Although purist will say that the only animal truly capable of sniffing out a morel is a pig, my dad and Luke showed otherwise. Their outings often proved bountiful and if not, they were at the least memorable.
The year before I dropped out of college, I came home for a visit. While home, I was informed that Luke had a growth in his throat that seemed to be cancer. He was having intermittent struggles with breathing and was coughing blood up. However, on occasion it was as if nothing was wrong (something that still pulls at my guilt). I was told that we had to put Luke down.
How to do this? What happens now? He's our brother.
My father arranged for a veterinarian to come to our home and perform the deed.
For years I had heard my father tell us all that if Luke ever needed to be put down, "he was going to have the best night of his life first. He was going to dine like a king".
Dad lived up to his word and that night we pulled a dining room chair up to the kitchen table and let Luke sit at it. My dad cooked Luke a big 22oz cowboy steak. We all sat around the table with tears in our eyes ready to watch our boy have his last meal. Dad put the steak in front of Luke and the result was remarkably anti-climatic. Luke gulped it down in less than 2 seconds. This didn't seem fitting, he deserved more than a 2 second moment of bliss. We all began digging through the cupboards for foods he might like. In the coming moments Luke would eat cereal, chips, crackers etc and he did all of it with the biggest shit-eating-grin that you've ever seen. That dog was in high heaven and although he had always been part of the family, that evening from his perspective he was finally part of the family. It was like when Pinocchio became a real boy.
Except Pinocchio wasn't killed an hour later.
I can't remember what the merchant of death looked like but I remember hating her. I still do. I remember her being late and being both thankful and angry for this. The worst part is that she judged. I could tell that she thought we were too preemptive in our decision and this infuriated me -still does.
She came in with what looked like a tackle box, had us sit down on the couch and place Luke in our laps. His torso was in my Dad's hands, his hind quarters in my little sisters and his head in my lap. The woman came over and injected him twice. With the first shot he fell asleep and with the second he fell away.
I can't describe the rest, it's not fair to you or me.
In hindsight, the person I feel most sorry for is my brother. He was living away and wasn't there to say goodbye to our brother. We told him about how it happened, about Luke's last supper but he never got to say "goodbye". He should have had the chance.
My father buried him beside the house in a small flower patch. This next part I swear to you is true: That spring, the patch of land where Luke was buried bore no flowers but rather harbored an unusually large expanse of morels. -Our retarded brother provides.
the photo is the only one I have of Luke (my parents have many). It's the day I left for college. He was a black lab
- attacked by shitty dogs