I wake as the lights are coming on and leave my bed quickly. I know where I must go. In the front lobby I hop onto the chair in front of the window to wait. The girls are unlocking the cabinets and moving around the front desk. They review the day's appointments. Now they know too.
As the morning unfolds I remain in the chair. I do not lie down to nap. I watch through the window and when the time comes the car rolls in slowly. It parks but no one gets out. Several minutes pass before a back door opens. A woman gets out and holds a tissue to her face. She turns and stares down at a figure on the back seat. She reaches in and strokes the figure as she dabs at her cheeks with the tissue. A man gets out of the car and walks around to the woman. He rests his hands on her shoulders and they stand there staring. No one is in a hurry.
The girls go out to the car with the stretcher. They will not move in until they are asked to. After a while the man nods to them.
As they come through the door the girls handle the stretcher with great care. Upon it lies a boxer with rust-colored fur and legs that have weakened over the years. She struggles to breathe. She does not lift her head. The woman places her hand on the boxer's chest as they move away from the scale and down the hall. The door to the exam room closes quietly.
The doctor prepares and heads in. His feet move slowly. There is no smile around his eyes. After a few minutes the man comes out of the room. He walks to the water cooler right next to me. His hands shake as he fills a cup. I look up at him with all my might as he stares out the window. He shifts from side to side and holds his breath. He tries not to let it out.
When he notices me he sits down by my side. I turn to him and lean in. Hestrokes my back, gently at first, then firmly, over and over. I move a little closer as he pets me. I am here for him. After a while he stops and puts his head in his hands. He takes deep, uneven breaths. I lean against him gently. He begins petting me again and I rub my head against his hand. His breathing calms as we sit together.
The man gets up and goes outside. He stands by his car. I jump down from the chair and move down the hallway to tend to the woman. I sit outside the exam room and listen.
There it is. I can hear it.
Above the doctor's hushed instructions and the boxer's labored breaths and the sobbing and the whispers I can hear it. It is strong and powerful and clear. It is the loudest sound in the room.
The sound is love.
Love sounds like uncontrollable laughter and calming waves. It rings like church bells on Christmas Eve and the doorbell when your best friend surprises you. It sings like unexpected good news or the rain falling when the sun is out. It's as large as a symphony or a sky full of fireworks, yet it is soft and warm and gentle too. It is there in that room, wrapped around every memory and hug that's been shared. It surrounds every look, every touch and every minute they have spent together.
I close my eyes as the exam room door opens. Love washes over me with a warm caress. I thrill in the moment. The doctor comes out. Soon the woman comes out too. I stare up at her from my spot. Her face is red and her eyes are puffy. She continues to sob as she walks quickly down the hall. She still holds the tissue to her face.
I run after her, as the sound of love spills into the hallway and fills every space. I hope she can hear it too. I stop in the lobby just inside the door and watch as the woman goes out to the man. He turns to her and they embrace as she continues to cry.
The man and woman must go home without the boxer. Their pets' spirit will find its place in heaven. I will stay by the door for the rest of the day. And the love will remain in the minds and hearts of all three of them--as it has always been.