Pepper

“Mrs Dunton, you may enter”

“Just me, or…”

“I’m afraid I do need the actual physical dog.”

“Well, ehm…”

Mrs Dunton opened the door, only a little, and peeked inside the room.

“Mrs Dunton, would you and Pepper please come in.”

She didn’t move, she just stood there peeking. She located the vet, who stood by her desk frowning.

“May my husband come in?”

“Well of course, Mrs Dunton. As long as you remember to bring the dog.”

Mrs Dunton turned around to the waiting room. It was lovely there. There were comfy seats (as far as they go in waiting rooms), posters of happy dogs and cats eating delicious foods, and most importantly the vet wasn’t there. Her husband was reading the newspaper. At his feet lay her baby.

“Thomas?”

“Yes honey?”

He continued reading the paper.

“You go first.”

He looked up.

“I was supposed to be waiting here remember? You said you didn’t want me in there, because I was too friendly last time.”

“I need you, please, to go in there for me… Now.”

He put his paper down, stood up waking Pepper, looked at his wife and walked through the door. He heard her closing the door behind him.

“Mr Dunton, welcome.”

“Good morning.”

He saw the vet’s eyes moving from his to the floor and back up again. He knew he should have brought Pepper, but he also knew that his wife wouldn’t have allowed it. Tonight she had promised to make him sloppy joe’s and he wasn’t planning on letting that chance slip through his fingers.

“Mr Dunton may I ask why Pepper isn’t here nor is your wife?”

“They need more time.”

“I’m very sorry, but I can’t give you more than I have. We need to proceed. With all due respect, we need to act fast for the sake of the dog.”

“She’s not just a dog.”

“I know it’s not just a dog, Mrs Dunton has already, kindly, informed me. What would you like for me to do? I can’t help you if the dog, excuse me, Pepper isn’t here.”

“Just tell me what is going to happen. Maybe when I go over this with my wife once more, she’ll come around.”

The vet nearly sighed and sat down behind her desk.

“Mr Dunton please take a seat.”

He sat down and started to look around the room a bit, like his wife did before him. Nothing seemed out of place. In the middle there was a metal table, there were cabinets with glass you could only see the silhouettes of the medicine through, and there was her desk perfectly organised. He understood why his wife hated it here.

“Like I informed you last time, Pepper will never restore from this illness. She is fourteen years old now, we can’t risk an operation to remove the tumor. This morning, she’ll have to be put to sleep.”

“How will it happen?”

“Through injection, you may me present with your wife when this happens.”

He remained silent and sat in his chair, while the vet went over the test results confirming her diagnosis. He knew that what he felt wasn’t supposed to be felt in a situation like this. He decided to stand up.

“I will tell my wife.”

“Please do.”

The vet looked at him, he could see she felt sorry for him. That only made it worse.

He opened the door to the waiting room. His wife sat on one of the chairs cradling Pepper softly singing her a song. He knew that Pepper was a dog, but she was not just a dog. Not to his wife and him. His wife noticed him and stopped singing.

“She made a mistake didn’t she? Pepper will be alright?”

“We need to-”

“No we don’t.”

“Honey this is the best thing to do.”

“Is it?”

His wife looked at him. He could see tears welling up in her eyes. Her sweet baby would be put to sleep, on a metal table, by a person they used to only see once or twice a year. Pepper would be staying behind on the table, while they drove home. While they would be eating their sloppy joe’s, she would be cremated. He felt worse than before. Yet, was there anything else they could do? He walked towards her lifted Pepper from her arms.

“Honey, Pepper deserves to be at peace.”

“But we can’t just… We just can’t…”

“It’s time.”

Together they walked into the room. He placed Pepper on the table, she didn’t even try to get off. They both knew that she had finished her task. He stood behind his wife holding her shoulders, while she held on to Pepper’s paw. The vet remained quiet, as they all watched Pepper’s last breath. When the vet looked up she saw both of them crying.

When they had left, she shoved Pepper into a black bag and put the dog into the freezer. Next week Monday she would be picked up together with the rest. She closed the freezer and suddenly felt extremely sad. What was it like to be losing your only child?