Go on, she whispered, gentle smile,
Go on and choose a life
You want to live
And die from.
Do you know these moments? You feel like everything is fine – you wake up, walk up the stairs, it’s cloudy outside but you don’t care about the weather, the kitchen smells like fresh coffee – but all of the sudden that moment is gone.
INT. THE HALLWAY – MORNING
I get up. Shari looks at me but stays in bed. I feel her eyes on me as I walk out of the room. I don’t make anything of it when she doesn’t follow right behind me. She’s been doing this more often lately – staying in bed, snoozing, relaxing. She deserves it. Her being eleven and a half years old but still playful and youthful is a gift I know to appreciate.
INT. THE HALLWAY – A FEW MINUTES LATER
I kneel in front of Shari on the floor. Her head is in my hands, her eyelids are heavy.
Oh God –
I haven’t prayed in a long time. When you ask me what I believe in I will tell you about sunsets and that I choose my own places over church. I will describe pictures of the ocean – turbulent, free and unfathomable. I will speak of “sonder” and the realization that we are all unique and worthy.
EXT. THE SIDEWALK – ON THE WAY TO THE VET – MORNING
Shari trots next to me but slows down. Then she stops altogether. I feel the pressure on her leash when she lifts her head. She looks me right in the eyes. I stare back, beg for her to keep moving.
Please, we’re almost there. It’s right there, you’ve almost made it.
I bend over. With my left arm I reach between her front legs, my right arm moves under her belly. Shari’s skin has become soft over time. I pick her up – carry her in front of me like an offering. She doesn’t object. I think of Fabi, my brother, who has oftentimes prompted to lift her only to provoke the same reaction: a gnarly noise that may have meant to be a growl but never came out as that. I take a few steps and stop, put Shari down and pick her up again. She’s heavier than I imagined. The vet’s practice seems miles away.
INT. THE VETERINARIAN – DAYTIME
Then everything happens very quickly: voices, needles, blood tests. I wait and cry as I stroke Shari’s face. Shari lies down in one of the dog baskets in the waiting room. Five people speak and consult each other.
Please. Not today. Don’t leave me now. Please, I would do anything for you. Just don’t leave me now.
INT. THE ANIMAL CLINIC – DAYTIME
I have just filled out my contact details on a piece of paper when a nurse calls my name. We enter a room, Shari is lifted on the examination table. X-rays, ultrasonic scans, more needles.
INT. A DIFFERENT ROOM – DAYTIME
Waiting. I sit on the floor next to Shari. Her head is in my lap. Her eyes are closed. My face is blotchy. Whenever I brush against the chair next to me it slides across the linoleum floor and makes a horrible screeching noise.
How am I supposed to move on if you were no longer by my side? Who am I without you?
A young veterinarian enters the room. He has a kind face and speaks with an accent. I don’t try to hide that I’ve been crying.
Shari has lost a lot of blood. We’ll have to keep an eye her here and do some more tests. There’s not much you can do for her now. We’ll give you a call in the morning.
I try to focus on the hopeful part of his voice that explains what they are doing now; that they try to fix and help her. All the ifs and whatnots – I know he has to tell me.
WEDNESAY – TWO DAYS LATER – AT HOME – MORNING
I walk around the living room with my phone clutched in my hand. Waiting for it to finally ring. They called at 11am the day before: Shari needed a blood transfusion. They needed to act immediately. We weren’t allowed to visit. I try not to picture her like that but hold on to positive thoughts instead.
Please be okay, I need you.
INT. LIVING ROOM – NOON
My mum brought home Sushi from the shops. I have barely eaten in the past two days. I am about to take a bite when the phone rings.
Good day Ms. Radler, I’m calling about Shari.
Of course you are – how is she? Please tell me she’s better, please tell me she’s fine. That she was lucky –
THE VET (Cont’d)
You know she got a blood transfusion yesterday. It should have helped and made her feel significantly better – I’m very sorry to report that it didn’t. There are a few more things we could try. I will have to inform you that none of them offer us certainty. The risks will only increase.
Is there an alternative?
Ms. Radler, at this point we’d all understand if you decided to let her go.
No, no, no, no, no –
Can I see her?
INT. THE ANIMAL CLINIC – WAITING ROOM – AFTERNOON
Sitting next to my brother and a Dutch couple speaking to their dog which sniffs my leg and wags his tail, I’m crying again. My mum walks up and down the room and sits down on the chairs to our right. You can hear a dog cry.
MUM (leaning forward)
There she is, I can see her. I can see her!
INT. A ROOM INSIDE THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE
We enter the room. Shari lies pressed against the wall to our right. She lifts her head slowly.
The same feeling I felt two days ago when I looked at her and she looked at me, when my heart understood something that my mind didn’t.
A young vet in a white coat enters the room behind us. She looks at Shari and then at us – my mum, my brother and I – and reaches out to shake each one of our hands. A moment of silence that feels like forever. I think the words before she says them: that there is nothing they can do.
She’s been given a lot of pain killers. They usually work for about ten minutes whenever she’s off the drip. With animals we can never be entirely sure but she may likely be in pain. She’s barely eaten and she’s thrown up last night and this morning.
Can we have a moment?
It will all be okay, my love. It will be okay, I promise.
INT. THE SAME ROOM – A MOMENT LATER
The vet returns. She holds a syringe. There is a gasping for air, my own lungs that flutter. My own tears fall on Shari’s face that I hold in my hands.
I love you so much. I love you so, so much.
Shari inhales three more times.
No, no, no, no –
Then she stops breathing.