I stood just inside the front door, dogs milling around my feet. I reached into my coat pocket and felt her collar. Pulling it out, I turned it over and over in my hands. I removed the ID tag and considered the idea of tossing the collar in the trash. Once a bright blue plaid, it was faded now and frayed in one spot. I hesitated and threw it into the laundry instead. It would clean up okay. I let the dogs out into the yard.
I went into the bedroom and cleaned out her crate. Her blanket had a dusting of fur. I held it up to my face, inhaling her scent, then placed it into the laundry as well. I folded the crate and brought it out to the garage. I let the dogs back in from the yard.
I filled the utility sink with bleach and water and thoroughly washed the floor and walls in the mudroom, clearing the air of her sickness with the sharpness of the disinfectant. The area rugs that helped her stay on her feet on the linoleum were rolled up and put on the porch for cleaning later.
Walking back through the living room, I noticed the set of stairs she used to gain access to the couch. None of the other dogs needed them, so I packed them up and brought them to the attic. A stack of pictures sat on the dining room table. Glancing through them, I found the right one. She was moving directly toward the camera with a sense of purpose. I put the picture in a plain black frame and placed it on top of the curio cabinet.
Friends called on the phone to offer condolences. “I’m okay” I assured them. “It was time. Thanks for calling.”
I fed the dogs, let them out, let them in again and watched some TV. Finally it was time for bed. It seemed like a week had passed since the trip to the vet this morning. I fell back on the pillow, exhausted and fell asleep quickly. Sometime during the night, something woke me abruptly. My feet were on the floor and I was half way to the spot where her crate had been before I remembered. She was gone. She didn’t need me. My breath caught in my throat and slowly I turned and crawled back into bed. My husband reached out, drawing me close, muffling my sobs against his shoulder.