Short Time on Earth

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One morning, when I was working at my desk, Sophy came in to my office. “Something’s wrong with El Rey. There’s blood on his ass. We have to take him to the vet.”

I figured it was no big deal. The week before we had brought him to the vet because his paw was bleeding from a thorn.

“Give me an hour and we’ll go. I need to finish this.”

An hour later I walked out to the yard. I called El Rey’s name. Instead Valiente came wagging her tail. There was no sign of El Rey. Valiente and El Rey were two puppies we’d rescued from the bushes in the hills outside our home in Mexico. They were now close to two months old.

I looked around and found El Rey under the trailer in the shade. I coaxed him out and saw it was much worse than I imagined. There was a balloon-like mass coming out of his rectum, the size of a tennis ball. El Rey’s eyes were forlorn, and his withers looked shrunken. He had been fine the night before.

Sophy walked over and I said, “Baby, this looks bad.”

We got El Rey into the car and set off. In an attempt to reassure myself, I told Sophy about a passage from Green Hills of Africa. “Maybe it’s not that big a deal. I remember Ernest Hemingway was writing about being in Africa, and he had dysentery so bad, that part of his lower intestine was coming out of his ass. Every morning he had to wash it with soap and water and then tuck it back in.”

Sophy looked out the window, worried. “Rey must have eaten something that won’t come out. He’s pushing and pushing.”

We decided to take him to a different vet. Of the five Mexican vets we’ve used, none have been satisfactory. It’s another example of the Rosarito Curse: too many people faking it until they make it. Problem is, almost none of them make it.

We parked and I carried Rey inside. Sophy spoke in Spanish to the vet, a burly mustachioed guy with grey hair. He motioned us back to the examination room and I placed El Rey on the stainless steel examination table. He lied on his side, weak and scared.

The vet took one look at the red balloon protruding from El Rey and shook his head. He said something in Spanish to Sophy and from the look on Sophy’s face it was clear it wasn’t something I wanted to hear.

“Honey. It’s the anal ring. Once it comes out, there’s nothing we can do.”

That hung in the air for a second.

I asked, “There’s no operation?”

“No. It would just keep coming out. El Rey’s suffering. We’re going to have to make him sleep.”

Instead of sorrow, I felt a rage. I kept it inside.

I leaned down and looked into El Rey’s eyes. “Oh, El Rey…”

What the vet did next baffled me. He took his gloved finger and pushed the red balloon back inside El Rey. Rey didn’t wince or yelp, but he looked distressed.

The vet walked away and came back with a needle. He injected El Rey.

I asked him, “Do you speak English?”

“No.”

I pointed to the needle. “Morte?”

The vet nodded. “Si.”

Sophy walked out of the room, not wanting to see El Rey go.

I leaned down again and looked in El Rey’s eyes and said, “It’s okay, Rey. It’s okay.”

The look in El Rey’s eyes had a question for me: Why am I leaving this world so soon?

(2016 Mexico)

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