“Good boy, good boy, good boy…” The man’s reassuring voice filled the air, as it had many times before. “Good Boy” had been his name ever since that long-off day of pain and fear. The man, then a stranger, had coaxed him, limping and torn, into the man’s car and taken him to the vet, ultimately giving him a home. The man had called him “Smithers,” and other names since then: “Young Man” in casual conversation, “Bad Dog” when he’d sprinted off in irresistible chase through the weeds or peed on his sleeping arch-enemy, the cat.
But he knew his real name was “Good Boy” by the way the man murmured it during years of friendly hugs and scratches, and, after a good long life, the way it was voiced with concern when merely walking across the room became a difficult task, and then with more urgency during those distressing times when his muscles locked up in spasms and his bladder loosed uncontrollably.
Always the stroking hands and the reassuring voice of the man were there. And now they were back in the vet’s office, as they had been in the beginning, and Good Boy heard the sadness in the man’s voice and wished he could in turn stroke the man’s fur gently and call him “Good Man” to reassure him that everything was all right. If sadness was being apart, then joy was in being together, in the now, in the final breath, in feeling the touch and hearing his name, “Good Boy.”