Natalie, Age 13, PA

My dimly red glowing clock read 12:30 AM. I lay in bed with heartache. Earlier that night, my dog Raven’s health had declined severely -- the experts were stumped; we had tried innumerable treatments over the past two days, and nothing had worked or even suggested what the problem was. One day, she was acting like her usual self, then all too suddenly, suffering was brought into her life and sorrow was brought into ours.
My mom woke me up at midnight. She and my dad knew it was the right choice to put her down. She could no longer walk; she could barely lift her head and whimper, and the foul aroma of urine was surrounding her. Raven could not control her bladder either. At this point, I also knew it was the right choice: we couldn’t see her suffering anymore.

My mom said to give our last goodbyes. I stared disbelievingly at my once energetic, cute dog like she was some kind of alien. Her black belly was shaved; she had a slowly dripping IV sticking in her arm, and she looked so miserable. I didn’t like seeing Raven like this, but I knew if I was going to be a vet one day, I would have to be strong.
My mom, whose eyes were puffy and pink, sat on the chair next to her head, and my dad lay on the hard white kitchen floor next to her, like he had been all night. I slowly knelt down; my heart was being squeezed by a force I couldn’t control, and I fought back the gut wrenching tears.

I petted her soft black head. Her caramel brown eyes were staring pleadingly up at me. My nine year old dog suddenly seemed five years older with her sleepless, sagging eyes and sullen grey muzzle. I wished I could do something more, but since no one could fathom what was wrong with her, all we could do was bring her home to hopefully make her comfortable.

“I love you,” I muttered to her, making everyone’s eyes blur with tears, and I scurried off into bed. I lay down, curled in a ball, and immediately wished I had said something more, but I couldn’t get the courage to go back out there. I said one last prayer asking for Raven to be in peace and to give me strength. I lay in bed staring at the wall for a long time. It seemed like hours had passed, when only minutes had gone by. I heard my brother come out and say his goodbye and return to bed. Then I heard my dad get up and carry Raven to the car. I wondered how he felt; he had to be the brave one to take Raven to the vet. I heard the car engine gurgle to life and I knew my dog’s life was slipping away. I saw the headlights move through the slits in my blinds. This all too familiar sight brought me pain and grief; it would never be the same again. There was a sour lump in my throat, a squeezing force at my heart, but my glossy eyes showed strength.

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