1. Start with the phrase “put to sleep,”
though it fools no one. Not even the dog,
who has to be carried against her will to the car.
2. Rat her out at the clinic. Describe wet carpets
and how she wanders confused up and down halls.
The vet won’t judge you. You will do that yourself.
3. Remember how she stumbles on the single step
outside your house. Her joints so swollen she can’t
lay herself down. At night, she circles and circles,
until you tip her like a cow, cushioning her fall. Tell yourself
that is all you are doing now.
4. Sit next to her on the blanket. Memorize
the roughness of her fur against your palm,
the gray in her muzzle like weathered steel. Think,
perhaps it’s too soon.
5. Start to leave. Stop when you see
she’s too weak to follow.
6. Breathe in her sweet root smell while remembering
how you hiked in the foothills. She would dash ahead
and wait for you under the shade of an elm, panting.
7. Count the years since she chose you, paws propped
against the bars of a kennel that smelled of piss. All you
saw was the question in her eyes and the answer was yes.
8. Tell yourself it’s the right thing to do. Tell yourself
you hope someone helps you when the time comes. Tell yourself
if anyone says you’ll meet her again at the Rainbow Bridge,
you’ll kill them.
9. When the vet brings the anesthetic, grab the needle
and stick your heart. Wait for the muscle to numb.
10. When she asks if you’re ready, lie.