The phone rang at 8:50 am. The voice, almost a whisper, "That you Bunbucket?"
"It's me," I answered, recognizing the not so happy voice of the Old Timer.
"It's my dog Rusty. He's so old. He can't walk. He won't eat. He's just so skinny. I think I need to take 'em to the vet and put him to sleep. I can't lift him, so if you could come out to my place..."
"I'll be there in 40 minutes."
I arrived to his trailer park a short while later. He showed me his pictures of him with Johnny Cash and the other country stars who'd made their way through our corner of the Midwest. We walked to the back of the trailer where Rusty was laying down in the bedroom closet. He was a good ol' houndog, practically blind in both eyes and at a skinny 48 pounds. We brought him out to the front room. The Old Timer got down on the floor with him and started to say his goodbyes. He spoke the words out loud, some for me, some for Rusty, and some for himself.
"I just can't stand to see you suffer Rusty dog. I hate to do this. He's a good ol' dog. Ain't never hurt a soul, don't even know what it means to hurt. He loved everybody and everything. But I'll bring you home and you'll be up on the mantle with Bear the Dog and Calico Cat."
He was ready. I lifted Rusty up, felt his bones bore into my arms, and we were out of the trailer. I helped him stand while he emptied his bladder. I lifted him into the back of the Oldsmobile. I drove the 4 miles to the Animal Hospital while the Old Timer sat in the back with Rusty to console him and himself.
We took Rusty into the Animal Hospital. Mona, the receptionist, showed us to a room. The Old Timer took a package of Keebler Soft Bake cookies from his pocket. "Rusty, I got your favorite cookies here." Rusty couldn't eat the cookie, he was breathing too hard from the trip. The Old Timer was crushed. What seemed like the last of his family was too old and too sick to eat his favorite cookie.
The vet, a cold-seeming fat man, came minutes later. The Old Timer looked to him, "Is this the right thing to do Doctor? I mean, is Rusty suffering?" Even in the Animal Hospital, with Rusty on the steel table, he wasn't sure if he was ready to part with his friend, or if this was the right thing to do. The vet assured him that Rusty was old, he was in discomfort, and it was his time. He assured him, in short, unemotional words, that the Old Timer was performing an act of kindness.
As the vet prepared the two shots for Rusty, The Old Timer prepared Rusty. "I'm sorry Rusty. I have no choice. But you'll go up to doggie heaven. It's just that now," and this is where the Old Timer broke, "I won't have anyone to come home to. I'll be all alone." I watched with tears in my own eyes as The Old Timer sobbed over Rusty. He took a moment, kissed Rusty on the forehead, and the vet gave Rusty the first shot to sedate him. The Old Timer wouldn't stay for the second shot that would stop Rusty's heart. "I can't take it," he said. We left.
I'll be doing the radio show on Saturday for the Old Timer. He needs a day off. The show will be in Rusty's memory. Good dog, Rusty.