Worst Thanksgiving Ever: My Fucking Dog Died


I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most Oberlin students from the East Coast have had the experience of going on a long car trip back home with a group of people you only know tangentially, or not at all. I’ve mastered this social dynamic, and consider myself an expert of car small talk.  In the case of this most recent trip back to the City of Brotherly Love, the driver of the car and I attended the same middle school and discussed the recent scandal surrounding our school, in which the chess coach was found to be a child molester. Yikes!

About halfway through our journey home, my mom called me with terrible news: my dog, Albert, had been sick for the past few days so my mom took him to the veterinary emergency room. Turns out he had blood cancer and it was untreatable. My beloved childhood pet had to be put down. That night. Standing in line at a Popeye’s in a PA Turnpike rest stop, it took all of my strength to hold back tears. I’ve had Albert and his littermate, Clifford, since I was 10 years old. Those dogs were my best friends, and Albert is the first pet I can remember losing.


Not wanting to kill the vibe of the car, I casually mentioned that my dog was terminally ill, and could I please be dropped off at the train station when we got to Philly so I could get to the animal hospital so I could watch my dog die. It was my turn to sit in the middle seat, so I put in my headphones, played some Brandi Carlile, and spent the rest of the car ride silently crying in the back seat.


Upon arriving in Philadelphia, I called my Lyft to the River Styx and emotionally peered out the window during the short car ride. I looked at all the people walking their still alive dogs with disdain, thinking, “must be nice.”


When I arrived at the animal hospital, my mom, dad, sister, and Albert were crammed into a tiny room, my 6’1 dad folded up around my dog, weeping. My mom holding his paw, weeping. My sister narrating the event on her snapchat story, also weeping. Me, softly rubbing his belly, bloated from the cancer raging inside of him, weeping.


After a few minutes of this, I knew that it was time for us to let him go. The doctor came in and gave him two shots, the first knocking him unconscious, and the second putting him to sleep forever. We stayed and watched his eyes close, his breath slow, and then finally, stop all together. Albert was gone.


Not caring to stay longer and stare at his dead body, we left, taking two separate cars. I got in the family SUV with my dad, and the moment he got in the car, he grabbed the steering wheel and immediately started sobbing. He quickly pulled himself together, and we drove silently to the beer store, where, upon checking out, my dad shot me a look from the corner of his eyes and asked the cashier if there was a dead dog discount.

My father’s interaction with the cashier is emblematic of how my family copes with things: we joke, we go through the motions, we try to move on. When we got back from the beer store, my mom had already removed Albert’s food and water bowl from the kitchen and run them through the dishwasher. My sister joked about making him into a fur coat. My mom, dad, and I recalled our fondest memories of Albert while taking bong rips. We joked about showing up to Thanksgiving dinner all wearing all black, freaking out our pet-free extended family. When asked how I managed to oversalt the mashed potatoes to the point of inedibility, I simply responded “I’m a little distracted — my dog fucking died.”


Comedy and grief are two things that bring people together, and I know that laughing through our pain this weekend brought our family closer. And that’s what Thanksgiving is about. You know, besides whitewashing and erasing settler colonialism. So maybe, in a way, this wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever. Maybe my dog dying was the goddess’s way of reminding my family that all things go, and we cope with things the best way we know how. And surely, we can take comfort in knowing that my dog Albert is in heaven, eating his own shit and shoving his face in Mac Miller’s crotch.

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