Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
Captain and MeI sat in the theater watching the movie, my eyes misting over. I heard my young son whisper, "Everyone's crying."
He was right of course, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. And why should there be? The movie was sad, tugging at the heart strings of even the most macho of men. The only one seemingly unaffected was my son. Then again, he had not learned the lesson that the rest of us had.
As I watched the movie, I couldn't help but think that this movie was almost a carbon copy of my own life, except the title would have to be, "Captain and Me."
Captain was just a little black lab puppy we got when I was younger. We inherited him from my cousin who was moving and couldn't take the little pup with him.
When we got the dog, he was supposed to have been my brother's, and for a time he was. Then my brother moved out and Captain naturally became mine.
Captain grew to be a big, muscular dog, almost entirely black except for a little patch of white on his chest. He had a slightly odd shaped nose, the result of an accident with a pair of gardening clippers.
My brother was trimming some bushes and Captain literally stuck his nose where it didn't belong. After a trip to the vet he recovered and was as happy as ever. Though, he didn't quite learn his lesson. One day I went out to find porcupine quills sticking out from his chin. Another trip to the vet's!
Captain and I were the best of friends growing up. Our favorite games were frisbee and the hose. Captain was afraid of water- highly unusual for a lab- but he loved the hose! His frisbees were actually the covers to five gallon buckets. I guess you need a big frisbee for a big dog!
I wasn't always so nice to the poor puppy. During the winter, I would make snowballs and throw them into the field, laughing as he, pardon the pun, doggedly tried to find the snowball underneath all the snow! Then there was the time I hid a walkie-talkie in my bed. He practically ripped my blankets to shreds trying to find me!
It wasn't all fun and games with my best friend, though. There was a time in my life when depression overtook me. I felt I was alone, an outsider. Somehow, Captain always knew when I needed him and would come and lay his head in my lap, looking at me lovingly, reassuringly, and I knew that I had at least one friend in the world.
When I got married, he came with me and became a friend to my wife as well. When she was pregnant with our daughter, he would lay with her at night while I was working. When he would cuddle in close to her stomach, the baby would calm down and my wife could finally sleep.
After Sarah was born, Captain was a self-appointed nanny. If she made even the slightest noise, he was by her side in seconds, no matter where in the house she was.
Unfortunately, life is what it is, and dogs do not live so long as humans. As he aged, he began to slow down. His hips were aching, his seizures, which he had once or twice as a puppy, came more frequently, and he began to loose control of his functions. We came to a final agonizing decision that it was not fair to let him suffer.
Early one morning, after working the night shift, I picked Captain up at the house one last time for his final trip to the vet's. My heart was breaking as we sat there in the waiting room. Captain smiled at me, trusting me completely, as always. Soon, the doctor came in.
She explained what would happen, that it would be a simple needle prick, then my best friend would simply drift off to sleep, never to wake again. It all seemed so simple, so... sanitized.
She asked if I wanted to leave him with her, or if I wanted to stay. My voice cracked as I softly replied, "He was always there for me when I needed him. I need to be here for him now."
She smiled, and I sensed she understood. She gently inserted the needle, delivering the dose, then placed her hand on my arm. "I'll give you a few minutes alone."
I held Captain as he laid down on the table, the drugs beginning to activate. Before long, his eyes closed, and he was gone. I stood there with tears in my eyes, patting his soft fur and whispering, "I'll miss you."
The vet hospital made all the necessary arrangements for his burial and I left with only his collar. On the way home, I stopped in at my parent's house to let my mother know he was gone. She held me and for the first time since I was a little boy, I openly wept in my mother's arms.
It seems strange that after nearly eighteen years, the emotions are still as present as ever: the laughter when I found he had sneakily stolen the sandwich I made, the fear when he suffered his first seizure as a puppy, the love that I felt when he climbed into bed, licked my face, and snuggled into me. And yes, the sadness at loosing my best friend.
I still have his collar and whenever I see it, I replay in my mind the movie that is, "Captain and Me."
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