He Listened to the Dog at the Foot of the Bed

He Listened to the Dog at the Foot of the Bed

He listened to his eleven-year-old Choco-

late Lab’s labored breathing on the

floor at the foot of the bed.


He thought of the last run the dog went on with

them  three days prior and how the phlegm

caught in the dog’s throat and spittle


formed on his chin making it a wet drippy

white covering the white stubble.  They

stopped in their tracks and he


watched the dog’s tongue turn blue-pink

as the dog gasped for every molecule of

oxygen that he could suck


from the hot, heavy wall of watery air.

The dog just sat on the trail, chest

heaving and eyes pleading


for help of any kind just to stop the

smothering.  They waited together

and then inched along


toward the parking lot and water so

the thirsty dog could lap up as

much as possible as quickly


as possible so the aspirated phlegm

would turn soft and slippery

and could be regurgitated


onto the dusty gravel next to the car.

The dog knew that then he would

be all right for a while and he


could breathe deeply again, taking in

luxurious warm, dry billows reach-

ing to the deepest depth of  his


capillaries. Since then the dog hasn’t stop-

ped panting almost in anxious anticipa-

tion that the smothering would


resume and his tongue would turn blue

and this time there wouldn’t be enough

water around upon which to


aspirate and chance death by drowning

in order to live. Maybe the dog was

smarter than the vet who shrugged


and thought maybe Michigan State

could do something. As the man

listened to his dog, he thought


about how he  was going to have to

have a conversation with his wife

the next morning about death,


the kind of death in which he and his

wife play God. A week earlier both

of them had watched physicians,


nurses and technicians play God, by

seeking to deny, in some kind of

incomprehensible understanding


of the Hippocratic Oath, the sweetness

of immanent death to his wife’s ninety-

three-year-old father who lay on a


gurney in the emergency room blood flood-

ing his gut from a bursting aortic

aneurism. The nurse said that


the vitals looked really good when a flat-line

would have been a blessing and the

on-duty physician asked if the


family would like to have a CT scan and

family looked up in confusion and an

almost cruel glimmer of  hope


and his wife asked if it would change

the outcome and the physician

said no and they all hung


in limbo while morphine was pumped

mercifully, after some medical mumbo

jumbo discussion about just how


much was too much, into dear old dad who

had been wanting out for the four years

since his wife of sixty-seven years


departed rather quickly her earthly existence

and him.  All efforts exhausted, the staff

accepted defeat, readied dad and


then escorted him to the dying room on the

second floor. The ER physician went off

to save others. The Second Floor doc


entered, looked and left with a sigh of

resignation.  One could almost

tell she didn’t like her work.


Dad went fast seemingly at his own

choosing and perhaps he knew more

than those trying to


keep him alive in spite of all evidence

to the contrary.  Maybe dad was

just trying to save the family


a few bucks from the thousands ticking

and clicking off in the accounting

department, the computer


central of the hospital. Perhaps

dad knew best how to die given

the circumstances and


perhaps the dog knows best how to

stay alive for a while under the

circumstances until his


adoptive parents really have to make

the decision they would rather not.

They could go to Michigan State


and hear the vets tell them there is

this procedure and that and another

and his wife would ask


will it change the outcome and the vets

will say he’s got a 50/50 chance of

dying on the table or he could gain


six-months to a year, but the recuperation

would be tough.  At 110, the dog isn’t

going to be granted a five-year


reprieve.  And so, he and his wife will play

God in a different way than those in the

hospital, but God, never the less,


only in this case hopefully the compassion-

ate God. The man and his wife had the

talk they had to have


even while dreading it and then, to make it

that much harder, the dog got up,

grabbed a toy and begged


to play hide and seek before sleeping

a sweet, quiet sleep

on the couch.

2 thoughts on “He Listened to the Dog at the Foot of the Bed

  1. Thank you for this. Moms and Dads need us “kids” right there at the end don’t they. 🙂 What an honor and privelege that is.

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