I cut onions in the kitchen. An ordinary activity made fraught by Moops at my feet waiting for fallen pieces that may be poisonous to him. Years ago, I left a bag of dark chocolate on the coffee table and went to dinner with my wife. When we returned, my late dog Doobis had eaten the entire bag. He weighed 18 pounds and had vomited most of it up by the time we had gotten home. He zipped across the house despite his limp. I thought this meant he was OK. The doctor told me it meant he was dying.
Doobis died a few years later, having survived the chocolate, but fallen prey to an artificial filler in his new heart-worm medicine that was supposed to make it taste like meat. We had changed medicine because we had changed vets because we had just moved to Indiana. He died at three in the morning on my first day of graduate school. I had a class at nine. I went. Participated. My wife went to work. In class that night the professor asked us what pets we had as an ice-breaker. For the first time in four years I answered, none.
Doobis, like Moops, lived in the kitchen. Doobis had free reign, closed off from the rest of the house by a gate. Moops jumped that gate the first time we left him alone. Then he jumped the barricade I made from those large Tupperware boxes you store sweaters in. Moops now stays in a crate when we are alone or asleep. It’s his space. He walks into there when he is tired or wants to be left alone. It’s his home within our home. When I prepare food in the kitchen, I am reminded that I am on his turf.
The kitchen is a space of mediation through which I passed on the day that Doobis died. He had woken up in our bed around 3 in the morning and began to cough. This was not unusual so, we were not alarmed. Then he collapsed, as if his limbs just gave out. I rushed him outside through the kitchen. He still couldn’t stand. Fearful, I yelled at him to stand. The vet said he wasn’t breathing when we brought him in. I still remember the pitch of my voice. Him shaking as if he thought he had done something wrong.
Moops eats the same food brand as Doobis and, like Doobis, has developed an allergy to chicken. We’ve changed his protein to lamb. The dog food is the only meat product that can be found in my kitchen. I used to think that this meant that I kept my kitchen death free. Now, after Doobis, death lingers. Now, when I cut onions, I am extra careful not to let any sliver fall off the cutting board and onto the floor. When I cut onions, I think of the potential of death. I hardly cut onions anymore. I still eat chocolate.
Erik Fuhrer is a Pushcart Prize and Best Microfictions 2018 nominee. He holds an MFA from the University of Notre Dame and his work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Maudlin House, Ghost City Press, Cleaver, and Softblow. He tweets @Erikfuhrer and his website is erik-fuhrer.com