The woman turned the corner at University and began heading down the block. She walked with a beagle. It was obvious they’d known each other a long time. The beagle stopped and sniffed regularly. They were slow but gentle with each other.
I was sitting on the broad steps of an apartment building. It was the first really hot day of the year, well into the 80s. I always overdo it. Thrilled at the heat, I try to pack too much in. I took a breather during a long afternoon walk before heading home.
It was a new vantage point. The clouds drifted by, traffic passed, delivery trucks stopped and then continued on.
The pair approached slowly. The woman didn’t seem to be in a rush. They had been in the shade since making the turn.
I love old dogs. I love their loyalty, their simple contentment, their cloudy eyes, opinionated natures. He had the stiffer steps of an older dog, the crunky tail – the movement sometimes intense, sometimes erratic.
“Hey sweetheart,” she said as they walked up.
“Hey,” I replied. “How old is your dog?”
“Seventeen! Wow, that’s amazing!”
Her voice had not been loud, but now got even quieter. Her face started to fall.
“I am taking him tonight to the vet to let him go.”
“OhmygodIamsosorrytohearthat!” My words poured out in a stream of awkwardness. My eyes ignited and I started to cry.
She paused, glanced down at him. Her voice quaked. “But seventeen, right? It’s so funny that you asked.”
“Yes! Absolutely! Seventeen is amazing!” Tears were streaming down my face.
She turned and they continued on, walking slowly along the sidewalk.
I sat there crying for a few minutes. I was crying for her. That is a devastating decision to have to make, I could not imagine doing it in a time of social distancing when you couldn’t get hugs and support from other people. I was crying for co-workers who have lost family members and how they have to grieve apart. I was crying because I missed my parents and hoped that they didn’t get sick. I was crying for it all, all of this sadness and loneliness and uncertainty.