Farewell to Skippy
by Neil Tepper

This afternoon, we visited Skippy for the last time.

We went to the veterinarian hospital and immediately received the sweet compassion of the receptionist. We had phoned ahead to let them know that we were ready to deliver Skippy to his peace.

Candy, a rich combination of high New York energy and gentle compassion, came out and said she'd bring Skippy to us. It was perfect that it was Candy because she was the licensed tech who first treated Skippy's emergency condition when we first brought him in three weeks earlier.

Skippy seemed the same as the previous days: walking slowly, tail sagging. When they reached us in the hallway, Skippy peed on the floor. "I guess he's happy to see us," I half-joked. Rather than take him into an examining room to visit, we took him outside, onto a grassy patch in front of the building. The air was cooling as the sun traced it's final degrees before dropping over the edge of day.

We found a shady spot and settled on the carpet of green grass. Skippy was "depressed," vetspeak for "no one home." We thought we noticed that he knew it was us. We stroked him and coddled him and spoke sweetly to him. He lay still, breathing deeply in the afternoon breeze. Once in a while, he opened his eyes or moved a leg or even raised his head, as if listening to a silent sound coming from deep in the realm of dogs.

The doctor would come out and speak with us. Meanwhile, he was attending to other animals, doing what men of his ilk do -- attempting to intercede against the ravages of age and disease and speeding cars. We waited two hours. It was perfect.

Finally, Dr. Dorfman came toward us, reaching out his hand and surrounding us with his gentle concern. He explained our options: Do something more invasive and possibly lose him; do something more invasive and learn something bad; do something more invasive and learn nothing; do nothing and lose him anyway. It was clear. It was what we were prepared for.

He explained what the procedure would be, that it would be quick and painless. "Where and when would we do it?" we asked. "Well, we usually do it inside, but, well, I could bring the materials out here if you prefer." Skippy preferred.

And so we waited. In fact, Skippy rose up one more time as if to say, "What's taking you all so long?"

Ten minutes later, the gentle Dr. Dorfman appeared, flanked by Dr. Storey, the doctor who'd directed Skippy's care during his first visit. Storey is the creme de la creme of those that are even considered for interns at the hospital. His prodigious skill and competence are surpassed only by his caring and commitment. We hadn't seen Storey ever since his superior, Dr. Dorfman had taken over the case. And, here Storey was. Dropped everything he was doing to assist Dorfman and be present at Skippy's liberation. On the other side of Dorfman was the wonderful, Candy.

The sun was now behind the trees, the birds singing their evening song, as we huddled over Skippy, Dorfman at the head, preparing the injections and the IV's, Storey and Candy at the tail and Robin and me at his spine. Everyone petting and stroking him. Skippy cooperating, complying, eager to be released from the pain and the suffering and the indignity of it all.

It was, as Dr. Dorfman said it would be, quick and painless and peaceful. With tears in our eyes and quivering lips, we thanked everyone and walked to the car. Driving away, I swear that I saw Skippy's spirit dancing in the sky, thanking us for enabling him to go home.

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