by Elizabeth Simmonds

The patio that they sat in was confining and hot. Dark wood fencing panels creaked in the light California winds. Shade from the small trees in the corner could not reach the table on the other side, and the back door remained opened, encouraging air to flow into the bedroom. The enclosure offered no comfort from the news Doctor Jackson gave her.

"We've done everything," he said, "he's an old boy."

It was unlike veterinarians to make house calls though, when you live in the best retirement home in California, anything can be arranged.

"It may be time to consider alternatives."

"Alternatives," Carol said, "what a fancy word for death."

Doctor Jackson pinched the bridge of his nose. "Ms. Langton, what's happening here isn't a bad thing. Henry has been around for a long time, and he's been through a lot."

Henry laid on the far corner of the closest bed, his tail laying off the side as his onyx fur soaked in the sun peeking through the window. His breathing was loud and raspy but his heart still beat like a drum.

"Yes, like this. He beat it once before and he can do it again," Carol said.

"Feline Pneumonia is harder on older cats. His immune system isn't strong enough to fight it anymore," He reached over and put his hand on her sholder.

"You can't give up on him."

"That's not what we're doing. Henry is in pain."

Carol reached into her pocket and pulled out a small orange bottle of pills. "Then what are these for? Isn't this pain medication?" She asked.

"Yes," Doctor Jackson said, "but that's only a temporary solution. Those won't save him."

"No, that's your job."

Doctor Jackson removed his hand. It wasn't like he hadn't dealt with people like this before, but Ms. Langton seemed to have a stronger bond with her pet than other geriatric clients he had.

"Ms. Langton, it's your choice..."

"You're damn right it is." She said, cutting him off mid-sentence. Her words cut sharply into the air, as if they were swords and she was fighting like a samurai.

"I understand this may be hard, but it was inevitable. He's already fourteen, that almost eighty in human years."

"And I'm 82, your point?"

Words were becoming a struggle for Doctor Jackson. The woman that sat before him was dead-set in her ways.

"I won't tell you it's the right thing to do," he said, standing from his seat. "but it's all we can do to help him feel better at this point. We can do it all in-house, it would be very peaceful."

"Thank you doctor, that will be all." Carol said, not bothering to look up at him.

Doctor Jackson sig hed as he showed himself out, giving Henry a pat on the head as he left. No one seemed to understand Carol's attachment to him, her need to keep him alive. People didn't know that they took their medicine at the same time every morning and evening, or that they comforted each other when nights were hard on their lungs. They didn't understand how Henry sat on her lap as she received her breathing treatments, or how she held him while he did his. Henry was her partner in all of her plights, they did everything together. This was something she never wanted to do alone.

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