Dennis knocks on my door before 8 a.m. It’s a relief to see him. Like it is when Doug’s cold nose greets me in the morning.
My older brother is sick. My old greyhound is sick too, though not with Dennis’ liver trouble. That’d be a metaphorical bridge too far.
Dennis stretches long and skinny on my couch all day, his nose periscoping above blankets and scrunched pillows. The couch is a never-made bed.
Never-made because Doug sad-sacks on it when Dennis isn’t there. My brother doesn’t share. Snappy and growly even as a kid, he never has. I wasn’t allowed to play with the Lego.
Now I play nurse. I dispense pills. The dog gets two of the white, then, four hours later, one of the red. The brother gets big blue and yellow capsules before and after the dog’s meds. Complicated. I dreamt one night they were on the same thing, that Dennis got his in a cheese ball as the vet suggested.
I think about family-size bottles of pills. Economy-size because I pay for them all.
Sometimes I say how about a stroll while I go out for the prescriptions? Dennis, take Doug! Doug, take Dennis! They teeter to the corner and back.
There can be coughing, retching. I once found blood-speckled vomit beside the couch. Dennis was pale and breathless. He panted he’d clean the rug, that Doug had barfed and was, apparently, really sorry for the mess. Embarrassed.
My brother’s round brown eyes were wet. He grabbed my hand and told me — as gently as he had ever spoken — Doug could be close to running his last race. He wanted me to know.
I hugged Dennis, petted Doug’s knobby head. Or maybe it was the other way around. Hard to know because I was sobbing, and they had dissolved into teary blurs.
But it wasn’t true. Not yet. I still have them.