Recollections from Room 7
by Alexis Carpenter
Euthanasia: assisted suicide
Death comes with a scent; a sickening sweet saccharine that one can sniff out long before revealed to the eye. I am a syrup of seen it, makes me sick.
I do not need to ask your name - I know you, already. No matter if you arrive wrapped tightly in collapsing arms or if you have mustered the strength walking by yourself with last bits of hope clinging to weakened muscles. The fur not always grey, nor the eyes consistently clouded. The youngest ones make the stomach flip – twist and tie into knots. I see you as you once were, and as you are now, through those surrounding you. The families drip salt-water tears that might have been lapped up had you any energy.
I know why you are here where you have to go. I move forward with repentance. Slowly, I will lead you to room 7. The room, composed of the rocking chair, plays to a door connected with parking lot making for a quick escape. A small table holds a bowl of prized dog treats that you may or may not want once I close the exam room door. A last token of joy, my voice leads with the invitation to enjoy it.
Someone will generally say, ‘Hasn’t eaten in a few days. Not a thing, not even from my plate.’
Hunger comes from physical activity whereas appetite comes from the mind.
In the middle, one will find a premade bed piled high with thick blankets. Immediately that catches your eye. This is where you lead, followed closely by those who love you. Naturally, your owner curls up on the makeshift bed with you. Already in heaven, which feels to you like endless head scratches and belly rubs. Love is simple and you know this.
For a split second, I ‘Heel.’ I consider darting right back out the door – locking you all inside without me. I do not want to play witness, again. It is overwhelming how hauntingly tight this room feels. I shiver as I grab the euthanasia paperwork and it holds true as I actually take their fucking money.
“I’ll give you some time”. My voice shakes.
Nevertheless, before I leave the room, I make a point to get down on the floor with you. I look you in the eye, and I make it a point to touch you. Say aloud, “good boy”. Yet, if I am honest, I am not sure that during this moment I am really speaking to you.
Liminality means a transition through rite of passage, the in between, alter reality.
Every time I go into a euthanasia procedure, I see a ghost from childhood past. My dog Sassy, a mixture of Blue Ridge Mountain and Border Collie, tricolored in soundness; our families’ flag for twelve years. Loyal by nature, I wore her dog hair proud. Play back the vinyl, dressing Sassy up in my clothes when we were both still young. Casually clad in shades of pinks and purples that my tomboy self-resented, Sassy wore them with sport.
Allie pushing Sassy in her baby stroller.
Sassy wearing Allie’s Sunday hat with the flowers round the brim.
Sassy was a dog that established a foundation of loyalty within me that I have never quite found in someone else. She taught me presence is every bit as important to ones’ translation as the words in which they use as attempt to fill the space within it.
Every single time I open that exam room door, I see her there. Float up towards the ceiling and remember whispering, hunched down low, in a crimped velvet ear, “I love you Sassy Girl.”
Over and over. Say it again and again. Until the dog is gone.
It is important to be there. To ‘Stay.’
Recall the initial sting watching my dad carry her body to his truck. Made better by a newborn gentleness in him I had never consciously seen before. Thick-callused hands wrap her body in a faded blue blanket… I faintly recollect a Christmas ago, wrapping that very blanket around Sassy’s head like Mary replicated from nativity scene. I jestingly called her, “Sister Sassy.” A game of innocent play. He places her softly in on a cushioned backseat and I am thankful it was not on the back bed as the cool wind whips my hair over my eyes. She does not feel any of this… or does she? Does the soul feel or the body?
How do you know, when you do not know.
My dad buries her by the river on our lot. A plot that has flooded many times since her death. When I step foot upon that lot, my gaze inadvertently faces the bend where the grass meets the river, behind the hill where our old trailer used to sit. I wonder if her body is still here or if it has since long gone. Taken by muddy waters. Perhaps some were never meant to learn, ‘Sit’ still.
I leave the room just as a tear collects from my eye, falls, winding itself down a flushed cheek. Before the family leaves, a little girl asks, “Where will he go now?”
I smile through tight lips. I wonder how to answer. If I should. I wonder how you answer, when you do not know the truth. I wonder if I should ask her the same, where she thinks he will go. Instead, I simply say, “Pick a sticker,” reaching in my pocket, pulling out an array of dog and cats laminated in a sticky glossed graphic. I ask her instead, “What did you and Rocky like to do together?”
Autonomous species practice mental self-amputation of a body part when under threat. The limb detaches itself from the body.
I mold the clay forming a canvas of your paw print. I conduct mechanic kneading motions, small somethings to hold on to, reminders of you. While in my attempt to delicately place your stiff paw to clay, I think about how some things are permanent. How symbolic this clay could seem to that of ones’ heart. How easily they both shatter. How easily they both imprint. I think of the collection of paw prints messily tracked all over my own heart. How even when it hurts, it still pumps… How it swells to its’ call.
Life is short with the ones’ we love. Shorter in dog years.
Try to stomach that. ‘Lay Down’ with it.
I think about death, both the acceptance and the fear of it. Can death be godless?
You see, I always want to save you. Choke down the thought that perhaps I am.
The foremost promise of the Hippocratic Oath, Do No Harm.
Death is not feared here. We invite, make it comfortable. Let it ‘Sit’ curled up in blankets. I am not afraid. However, some days I do feel tired. Not so much that I will give in. I have so many more of you to meet. No, I am not afraid. It is important to ‘Stay.’ ‘Sit’ with it for a while.
My mom calls, “You try too hard, overthink it. Try again in the morning.”
My grandma writes, “You are a sensitive person and take on way too much of other people’s problems. Please take care of yourself. You are worth more than you will ever know and you only get one chance at this life. There are not second chances. Be happy.”
I want to say, how I would never ‘Roll Over.’
The First Commandment states Thou Shalt Not Kill.
The End is the bagging of the body. I keep this quick for this is my hardest part. I have never found the right way to bend and reshape you, place your body. It feels too rough as I pull the zip tie closed. I think about how I hid your favorite toy inside. A pink bunny is in there with you. I am not allowed to do this but your little girl said you needed it. Therefore, I send it with you hidden, tucked tight against your body. You and that pink bunny. ‘Play Dead.’ I hope they do not find it, figure me out. Perhaps I would tell them that I did not know.
I console that its’ all dust, anyways. In the end.
I will send you off only to do it all over again tomorrow. Or, in an hour. Some days it is more, some days less.
I suppose it depends on if you count in dog years.