By JC McKinley
It wasn’t supposed to snow. The weather forecaster said the front was going to pass over us without releasing moisture. Like seventy-two percent of the weatherman’s predictions, this one was wrong.
When your mom threw open the curtains that morning, three inches of crisp white snow greeted you both. Brilliant, soft luminescence lightened the dark winter sky.
“Figures,” I said. I hate it when the weatherman is wrong.
You pawed the glass. Mom let you out. You scooped a mouthful of icy powder and looked back. Your golden brown eyes, so rarely forlorn, squinted dolefully. Mom knew you were sick then. She asked what was wrong. You buried your nose in the snow pack and inhaled in rigid lines, creating hashtags all over the backyard.
You laid down in the early afternoon to rest from your ceaseless crisscrossing. At sunset—sunsets are early in the winter—we checked on you. You didn’t wag your tail when we approached. Your body felt so hot.
We called the vet.
She said, “If her symptoms don’t improve overnight, bring her in tomorrow.”
We agreed. I’d go to work, mom would bring you in. When you rested on your side, relaxed, eyes closed, breathing unhurriedly, I said, “She must be feeling better.”
We gave you a few hours to recuperate before I brought out your favorite meal: rice and turkey. Nice and easy on the stomach. My foot came down hard on the gravel edging near the fence where you lay. When the sharp crack didn’t startle you, my heart ended.
The next few hours were a blur of disbelief, dry mouth, and puffy eyes. We had to ask my father-in-law to help us transfer your stiff body. We rolled you onto a blanket and carried you to the car. We drove in stiff silence to the all-night vet. We requested a necropsy, but they did not discern a cause of death.
They wheeled you out with your body covered by a blanket. Only your tail and face were visible. You seemed asleep. It made looking at you easier. We rested our hands on your sweet face and choked out lamented goodbyes.
“Sometimes,” the vet said, “dogs get fevers before their hearts fail. My best guess, she had a heart attack. No one knows the cause, nor how to stop it or prevent it. At least she was at home with you, in her comfort zone, and able to self-soothe with snow.”
“It wasn’t supposed to snow,” I said. My hand grazed your soft, pointed ear.
We stepped outside. Crystalline flakes glittered under the street lights. The car felt lighter on the drive home, though our bodies bent under the weight of losing you. I pulled into the garage, walked to the gate to close it. There, in the side yard, a perfect row of prints tamped in the deeply frozen, sparkling snow.
Your prints are a gift. A memento embedded in what wasn’t supposed to happen. For the first time in my life, I’m grateful to the weatherman for being wrong.