Leah opened one eye as the early morning sun flooded her room. "Ugh," she sighed out loud. It was Saturday morning. That meant nursing home day. After a few moments she dragged herself from the bed only to be confronted by another depressing realization. There on the hardwood floor was one more reminder of the dismal conditions in which she had existed the last few months. Her faithful companion of twelve years sulked under the bed as if waiting for a reprimand once Leah found her accident.
"Callie." Leah half-heartedly scolded, knowing the old dog could not control bodily functions any more than her father could control the progression of Alzheimer's. After cleaning the floor, Leah reached for Callie and nuzzled her reddish brown fur, tearing up at the thought of the ultimate fate for both Callie and her dad. Callie wagged her usually droopy tail as she happily licked the tears from Leah's eyes. It was a small comfort but these days Leah cherished every moment of unconditional love Callie could give her.
The trip to the nursing home was just as Leah feared. Only a week of time had gone by, but another handful of years had vanished from her dad's memory. "Soon there won't be any reason to visit," she thought to herself as she walked to her car to head home. "He won't have a clue who I am in another month".
As the weeks wore on, Leah's heartbreak compounded as her dad continued the descent into his solitary world and Callie's accidents grew more and more frequent. One night the constant routine of cleaning Callie's crate and bathing her drove Leah to the breaking point. "Just once I would like to come home and not have this stench hit me at the door", she thought as tears of frustration rolled down her face.
For the next three days Leah mustered her courage to do the unthinkable. "After all", she reasoned, " Callie has lost her quality of life. It's best to put her down now than have my frustration grow into hate. She lived a good long life and now it is time to move on".
Another Saturday rolled around. Leah could barely drag herself out of bed. She had an appointment at the vet's office in a couple of hours and a trip to the nursing home in the afternoon. "It's for the best," she tried to cheer herself. "Dad is requiring more and more of my time and it's not fair to Callie to be left alone so long at a time".
Leah carried Callie and some towels to the car. She layered the passenger seat with the towels to protect it from the inevitable accident that would happen before reaching the vet. Leah situated Callie on the towels and they began their final trip together. As she pulled onto the main road Leah's resolve began to waiver and a tear seeped from the corner of her eye. The tear rolled down her cheek and when the saltiness reached her lips they began to quiver as if on cue.
At the traffic light Leah glanced over at the dog lying on the passenger seat. Callie's head was on her paws, big brown eyes fixed upon Leah. When their eyes locked Callie's tail thumped against the towel. For just a brief second Leah saw the brown eyes of her father in the face looking back at her. She dropped her head onto the steering wheel and her chest heaved with the sobs of despair. "Why?" she screamed between sobs. "Why do they both have to go like this?"
The honking of a car brought Leah up with a start. She wiped her eyes and made a u-turn, heading the car back toward the house. She reached over and gave Callie a scratch behind the ears, smiling through her tears as the little dog angled her head so Leah could scratch her favorite spot. She couldn't do this to Callie anymore than she could stop visiting her dad at the nursing home. A whimper of a sigh escaped her as she vowed to see them both through the twilight of their years, grateful for every morsel of love she could squeeze out of the precious time left.
Scarlett Farr lives with her husband, daughter and dog in Lizella, Georgia.
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