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"Bella's Last Day" - t.s. ozula sioux

Life had not always been good to Bella.  But her very last day was remarkable.

            On Bella’s last day, she was healthy and strong.  So much so that she, herself, had to travel far into the recesses of her humble canid memory to uncover the cowering, gaunt, head-shy shadow of a creature she had been so very long ago.  At eight weeks old, Bella had been a gift from the strung-out-gutter-punk boy to the strung-out runaway girl, who loved the girl fiercely and in his heart hoped he could somehow save her; hoped he could somehow love her enough to help her forget why it was she ran away.

            The girl wept at the sight of Bella.  She held in her lanky arms the new pup’s soft, roly-poly plump form tight to her frail, bony chest and for a moment, felt the enormity of her grief begin to fade in the sweetness and mercy of puppy breath.  In place of the kibble she and the boy could not afford, Bella was fed bits of yellow-brown rock by all who came and went through the petrified walls of the house the boy and girl were squatting in; t he house that became the neighborhood crack den.  She grew numb and weak.  She fought terrible demons her sense of smell could not detect while her body seized without reprieve.  Her warm, chestnut eyes became tense with fear.  And she was thirsty; always so very, very thirsty.  But on Bella’s last day, none of that mattered.

            The girl who would become Bella’s second mistress—the college student who lived next door—found Bella hiding underneath the bed of her pickup early one morning on her way to class.  Slowly, slowly the girl coaxed Bella out from underneath her truck and deep into her heart, and for three years the two were inseparable.  Then came grad school.  The girl got accepted to an out-of-state program and very simply, could no longer care for her.  A decision had to be made.  Autumn came and Bella’s second mistress left, promising Bella she would soon return for her; that their separation would only be for a little while.  Bella never saw her again. 

            Bella’s last day came by chance.  She wasn’t sick; she hadn’t attacked another dog; nor had she in any way harmed a child.  Bella was under the care of a  temporary master, who did what he could: sheltered, fed, watered, and on occasion, even walked.  Beyond that, because his broken soul genuinely could not figure out how to, in his words, “be a responsible dog owner without giving over my entire life to her”—something he was unwilling and, ultimately, unable to do—he kept his distance.  A decision had to be made.

            Numbers were called; text messages were sent; money was begged for and borrowed.  The metal fencing and concrete walls of the local no-kill animal shelter that amplified, to the point of insanity even the smallest of sounds was no way for a dog to spend the rest of her life, it was decided.  And a full-grown pit bull—especially one with a traumatized history—would more than likely, reason dictated, be deemed unadoptable, no matter how loving and sweet her disposition; no matter how gentle she was; no matter how good Bella had always been.  The decision was made.  Knowing she would not refuse him, Bella’s temporary master called his sister, who was asked to do the impossible.

            On Bella’s last day, more than she could have ever dreamed possible unfolded before her very eyes, for her alone.  She was fed by hand, bit by mouthwatering tender bit, a twenty-piece Chicken McNugget value meal pack, complete with fries and a Coke she shared with her third and final mistress.  She had never in her wondrous six-year life tasted anything so good.

            On Bella’s last day, she was taken to the park and allowed to run free.  She found a single dead mouse and rolled belly-up, limbs flying, and tail wagging back and forth over the half-rotted little carcass, bathing herself in its gorgeous scent and wishing desperately her third and final mistress would come join her: she wanted her to know how beautiful life could be; wanted to share with her all the joy her heart contained.  Bella and her mistress then shared  two astoundingly dreamy ice cream sandwiches—both vanilla; Bella’s absolute favorite.  Though she tried in earnest to go slow—to restrain herself and savor each morsel—the goodness of it all overwhelmed her and Bella could not help but take the last few bites in a single gulp, which then made her hiccup.

            Bella sat at her mistress’ feet and panted blissfully.  For the first time in a long while, the crease above her fuzzy brow softened and all worry and fear disappeared.  Her third and final mistress held her gaze and smiled softly as she whispered Bella’s name.  Bella could smell the woman’s sorrow.

            In a few short hours, Bella’s mistress will lay her left hand upon Bella’s warm and smoky, pearl-gray head as she holds in her right, Bella’s forepaw while the vet tech tenderly shaves her hind leg.  As the initial injection, rendering Bella unconscious, is administered, Bella’s mistress will lean over her and through her sobs sing to her a lullaby.  Blackbird singing in the dead of night, take these broken wings and learn to fly…Bella will close her eyes as the second shot takes hold.  Within seconds, she will be gone.  You were only waiting for this moment to be free. 

            But back at the park, Bella’s last day was still unfolding.  Sitting beside her new mistress and smelling of chicken, ice cream, and dead mouse, Bella was content: her third and final mistress, she was certain, would not leave her.  She was safe and she was loved.  And on Bella’s last day, she was so very, very happy.