TRIGGER WARNING: ANIMAL DEATH
Everything seemed normal. We were in the parking garage underneath our building; Shaun and I had just arrived home after our friends' bachelor/bachelorette BBQ. I don't even remember what we were talking about, but we were interrupted when we noticed two of our neighbors running into the garage, one of them holding a distressed looking bulldog.
I suddenly felt sick. Clearly something was wrong; this dog did not look well. His tongue was hanging out and he was slumped into the woman's arms.
Shaun and I sat there for a minute, horrified. We wondered what we should do. As we got out of the car, I could hear the couple talking in terror-stricken voices a few parking spots over from where we were standing. The whispered hysteria reminded me of when I was 12 years old and my sister's birth father passed away from a heart attack in the middle of the night. That feeling when you don't know exactly what's happening, but you know that something is dreadfully WRONG.
We looked back to see the the couple standing next to their car, crying and gasping for breath. The dog was presumably inside the vehicle.
Shaun asked if they were OK and if there was anything we could do to help. They couldn't form sentences or even words. They were too distraught. My voice cracked from crying. I could only offer a weak, "I'm so sorry."
The four of us stood there, essentially paralyzed... by shock, grief, confusion, and most of all, fear.
I started hyperventilating. I didn't think about it; it just happened. I couldn't breathe; my chest hurt. It felt like my throat was constricting. Shaun and I walked towards the elevator lobby, my entire face covered in the tears that were pouring out of my eyes.
We didn't speak. We took the elevator up to our apartment. I still couldn't breathe properly and I couldn't stop crying. It was like there was no air, like time was just stuck. Over and over I kept picturing the dog and the expressions on the faces of the man and woman, like a repeated video on Instagram. It felt so unspeakably awful, like it was going to cycle from start to finish forever.
I tried to imagine why I felt such panic about two people that I didn't know and a dog I had never seen before. It was just a little over a year ago that Shaun and I had to euthanize our own dog, Wilhelmina, who at age 15 had multiple health problems and eventually stopped eating. But that didn't feel like a proper explanation. With Willi we at least had the grim luxury of deciding when her end would be. It wasn't late at night in a parking garage.
There was nothing to be said; nothing to be done. Shaun and I walked upstairs to our apartment, unlocked the door, and greeted our own dog, Dora, who we'd brought home before Willi got sick and who was there with us when she died.
Never had the void loomed so large or looked so dark and ugly.