When Michael brought him home he was only six weeks old and already bigger than a football. His chest was so big that my hands could not wrap around it.
I didn't want another dog. Our last one had just died a few months before and, with five cats in the house, we really didn't need another animal.
Michael had started a new job on the night shift. He didn't want me to be alone while he was at work. And, I had a second job teaching for the local Safety Council, which meant that I came home after 10 p.m. two or three nights a week. So, when he saw a sign in the neighborhood that said "Free Puppies", he stopped to look at them and came home with Corky.
I picked up the puppy and he immediately snuggled his face in my neck. I put him on my lap and he let out a long, loud sigh and fell asleep. That's all it took. We had a new dog.
And, even better... he was housebroken in less than twenty-four hours!
I kid you not.
For the next sixteen years Corky was my protector. He made me feel safe.
Especially after Michael committed suicide and I decided to continue living in the house.
For the nine years since then, I always knew he would be waiting at the gate for me whenever I got home. And, he followed me down the driveway to the gate every morning as I left for work.
I can still hear his nails clicking on the concrete. He was Mom's Good Boy.
He didn't really start to show signs of aging until a couple of years ago. I noticed his eyes getting cloudy from cataracts... cold weather seemed to make his hips stiff... and he wasn't quite as quick to react to little noises.
But, he still patrolled and guarded... and made me feel safe.
This weekend, old age finally took its toll. Corky died.
It wasn't easy for either of us.
I helped him die.
I got home from work Saturday afternoon and headed to the garage to give him his dinner.
He hadn't been waiting for me in the driveway. He wasn't in the garage or his dog house.
I walked out of the garage and saw him lying in the back yard. He was breathing hard.
I called to him, but he didn't get up. I walked to him.
He was limp and panting. I got a bottle of water and let him drink from my cupped hand.
Don't know how long he had been there. Completely limp. Got his quilt from the garage. Tugged it under him until I could use it to drag him back into the garage. I sat with him. Petted him.
He drank more water. Ate a bit of canned food. Seemed to be sleeping. I went in the house.
Left a message at the vet's office. But, he was too heavy for me to pick up to go anywhere.
Walked out the back door. Corky was standing at the water bowl! I went to him. He wagged his tail. He walked back to the garage to his food bowl. Ate a little. Curled up on his quilt.
It was late. I went to bed. Slept fitfully. Bad dreams.
Sunday, late morning. I hear a dog barking. Moaning.
Outside, I find Corky behind the garage. Give him more water from my hand. He is limp again.
Panting. Stomach seems to be convulsing. Moaning dammit I don't know what to do his bowels have left a puddle beneath him he's in pain goddammit he won't take any more water I'm sorry Corky tell me what to do I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry why can't I help him my poor old puppy I keep petting him crying crying wait pills left over from my back in the bedroom where is that damn bottle there it won't open why won't the lid let go nail file cutting the bottle shit not working finally lid off wait sleeping pills maybe two of those will help him back outside take the pills Corky take the pills open your mouth please Mom wants to help the pain go away here take some more water swallow the pills don't spit them out brush off the sand open your mouth for me please more water good boy good boy swallow good boy crying crying on my knees petting his head kissing his nose it will get better soon breathing slower are you sleeping breathing easier oh damn let him rest easy no more pain.
I stand up. Walk to my car. Drive to a park on the river.
Call a friend. Talk a while. Say good-bye I have to check on my dog.
Corky? Behind the garage. He is still. Not moving. I kneel beside him.
He is cold. Rigor mortis already.
Find a shovel. Sugar sand. Hole keeps caving in. Digging digging digging.
Quilt in the hole. His grave. Drag him to the hole. Fold the quilt around him. Pet him one last time. No more pain. No more pain. I'm sorry. Sorry. Sorry my old puppy.
Sand is heavy in the shovel. Cover him. Cover him with the sand. More sand. Done.
I can't breathe...
It hurts too much.