By Steve Siciliano
I was finishing an order when Barb called.
“Cody’s not good,” she said.
“He’s bleeding pretty badly.”
That morning at home I had watched Cody, our golden retriever, licking his paw while he lay on the tile floor next to the back door and it was then that I knew it was time. The more he licked the more the tumor on the lower jaw inside his mouth bled. Two weeks before, Dr. Chudy had removed a similar tumor but in those two weeks another had grown. “I’m quite sure it’s cancer,” he told us after the surgery. “We’ll just have to see what happens.” When I left for the store that morning, all the fur on Cody’s left side was red.
I knew it was time but I was hoping that Barb was going to tell me that she was able to once again stop the bleeding. When I got home she was crying. “Do you think I should feed him before you go?” she asked.
I had to lift Cody into the back of the Blazer. That had nothing to do with the cancer. He was just too old to jump that high anymore. In two weeks he would have been fourteen.
While I drove I thought about snippets from Cody Joe’s life—about the time he busted through the screen door trying to get at a squirrel, about the time we came home and found shredded books on the floor of the living room, how he would pick my socks up off the floor and proudly present them to me as if they were birds, how he loved the water, how he loved retrieving tennis balls, how he loved chasing squirrels up the back yard walnut trees, how he would follow me from one room to another and lay at my feet, and how during backyard store parties he would walk around tipping over glasses, lapping beer from the ground with the same enthusiasm of any life-long beer geek. Like the rest of us, Cody Joe loved his beer.
In one of the private rooms in the clinic I sat on the thick carpeted floor with Cody’s head in my lap. I caressed his head while the tumor bled on my hand and arm. While we waited I thought about the first time I had to do this, almost thirty years ago. I thought about Winston, an English setter, standing on a cold examination table. I was shocked at how fast the pentobarbital worked, and I tried holding up Winston's collapsing, dying body. I wasn’t going to let that happen to Cody.
I had my cry on the way home. It was a good cry. Cody was gone but I still had his memory.
Later that evening Barb and I went to Founders. We sat at the bar and somehow it felt good to be surrounded by people. It felt good to be sitting in a familiar place, surrounded by familiar faces, drinking a good beer, every so often talking softly to each other about Cody. A familiar pub is a good place to sit when you’re happy, but it’s also a good place to sit silently in sorrow.
When we left the sun was just dipping below the horizon
“Beautiful sky,” I said.
“It is,” Barb replied.
I looked at the rays of light reflecting off the crimson clouds. “Maybe Cody’s out there somewhere,” I said.
Barb put her hand on my arm. “Maybe he is.”