He literally looked like a burnt hotdog – black all around with golden brown paws, a pair of dark doleful marbles poking out of the rusty bars.
I knelt down outside of his cage, a temporary refuge he shared with four other badgers.
“Oh, I wouldn’t go anywhere near that one. He’s trouble.” The kennel worker tells me, with a hostile look at the miniature dachs. “Tried to bite that little one’s head off when she licked his water. The other four are scared shitless of him. He’s a perfect little angel during the day, then as soon as it’s lights out he starts barking. And he’s already escaped twice.”
He looks at me with such a tortured, misunderstood look that I cracked up. I put my palm out to him. He licked it and gave me a giddy bark. Devious and stubborn. My spirit animal.
I scratched his soft tan jaw. “If I take you, you’re probably gonna make me regret it with a week, huh?” He cocks his head with a confused expression.
Oh, fuck it.
“I’m taking him.”
“Are you ready?” The vet asks me, her voice as gentle as a caress.
I nod with as much conviction as I can muster. My fingers trail down Boris’ bony long torso, trying to memorize the texture of every hair. My eyes find his. Black-brown irises, exhausted but peaceful, finally ready to shut after eleven years of running after me and brightening up my life.
I remember the first time we came here, over eight years ago, after Boris licked the newly painted bathroom wall. I had bawled my eyes out in the car, utterly convinced he was going to die. Turned out all he needed was a mouth wash and we were back home within half an hour. From that moment on I decided he was a miracle.
“‘S okay B, you won’t feel a thing.” I kiss him on the forehead as the vet injected the solution into the syringe. Boris whimpers softly as the needle sinks into his neck.
A flood of images rush into my head, sending notes of vertigo down my spine.
Day One together. Two months old Boris taking a huge dump on my $500 sheepskin rug after I spoiled him with too much ham.
April Thunderstorm. Barking frantically at the foot of my bed at 2 a.m. because his stubby legs won’t allow him to jump up and snuggle next to me.
Throwing up on my little cousin’s lap after eating too much cake at my 27th Birthday party.
Christmas five years ago. Dug himself under five feet of snow and almost froze to death.
The last two years. Falling asleep on my lap, wrapped in a blanket. Me massaging his brittle spine by the fireplace.
Boris stops moving. I tighten my grip on his soft still paw and squeeze my eyes shut, trying to visualize every moment down to the smallest detail, knowing that every image will fade with the passage of time no matter how hard we tried to grasp on.
I wish I could convert memories to paint, red yellow black, so I can splash them over the back of my mind and pour them through my veins, pumping my heart with his spirit.