The dog with the broken vertebrae arches his back, brings his head back
up, sinks his hips down to the dirt, finally lowers his head, and rolls onto his side.
He has found that one spot in the yard, in the dirt yard, where brown grass has started
to turn green, stretches his neck, pokes his nose at the small shoots sprouting towards
the warm sunshine. He lolls his tongue out, laps at what little dew might be left
on the thin blades. I call him up, over to me. Set his food dish in front of him,
hoping he will eat the brown kernels, the same color brown as the dirt in the yard
but a lighter brown than the brindle in his coat. He refused to eat inside where the
sun had not yet penetrated the curtains on the north side of the house. Perhaps the
sunlight here will do him some good. Perhaps it will do us both some good. He eases
his body off the ground, steadily putting all four legs underneath his frame before
he hoists his broken body from off the dirt. Shakes and the dirt flies off the white
of his coat. Ambles to the bowl. He flicks his tongue into the dish, flicks around
the bitter pill buried in his morning meal. The pill, aptly pushed aside, will need
to be fingered down his throat. I watch that one white speck among the brown. White
and drooled upon but not ingested, almost sparkling in the cheery morning light that
reflects up and out of the metal bowl. Pain pills should be black. They shouldn't
appear so hopeful in the light. They should be not seen; camouflaged the way the cancer
in his back camouflaged as a broken bone. White is too hopeful for a pill that will
eventually end a life. Slobbering, he lifts his brown and white face from the bowl,
having eaten three more bites today than he had yesterday. Shakes his head and the
spittle flies from off his jowls. I stand, congratulate him on a job well done, a
meal well eaten. I bend and grasp the white pill; small pieces of it crumble, powdering
my finger and thumb. He stares at me with his almost red eyes, shrinking back and
away as if I held a whip and not a small pill. Slowly, backing away, head down, he
prepares to run. Before he can, I call him to me. He lowers his head, lifts his eyes,
takes a tentative step in my direction. Another. I encourage, good dog, good boy,
c'mere. Reaching down, I grasp the top of his muzzle. Open, I command. I grasp the
bottom of his muzzle, still slightly wet. I pull harder, commanding an open again.
It must be his decision; I can not force the jaws of a pit bull. With a slimy smacking
sound, he obliges. My hand at the bottom of his muzzle reaches around, the pill on
my forefinger, down into his throat. Clasp the jaws shut. Blow on his brown nose.
He swallows and shakes his head, trying to ward off the taste. But it is already in
his mouth. I open his jar of peanut butter sitting on the picnic table, stick my finger
in it, and then back into his mouth. His tail wags, the white tip a surrender flag.
He licks my finger clean of the peanut butter, I wipe it clean of slobber on my jeans.
He watches me turn back to the picnic table, set down the peanut butter, climb onto
to the top. I pull a cigarette from my pack and light it. He returns to that place
in the yard, the one where the grass has almost turned green. As he stretches back
down onto his side, I pull one short white hair from my jeans. Release it and watch
it float on the small breeze over the fence line and out of sight.