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A Step Short: Chapter 1

Rachel never found time to kill herself.

Not that she didn't want to. It wasn't that the thought bothered her, nor was she worried about how she would do it. The problem was she had too many chores to do, and problems to manage. A veterinarian with a heart bigger than her brain, she had taken on many tough cases she hoped to help. Severely ill or injured dogs and cats in her care either died, were euthanized due to suffering, got better and then adopted out, or got better and simply stayed with her for good. The latter group was the reason Rachel had no time to do what she believed was her inevitable end.

When you know for a fact that you won't be on earth much longer, it is comforting to know any dependents of yours are cared for. Rachel's two dogs, a rough looking mop of a terrier-type named Mum, and a lab'ish sort named Buster, would be plenty happy in the homes Rachel had planned for them. Buster was going to her brother's home in Maine, and Mum to her Sister in Iowa. Neither of her siblings were aware of this, but with the will making the request of them, along with $5000.00 going towards future care, she didn't think they would be too mad at her. They both adored the dogs, and Mum and Buster both adored them.

The cats were going to be a bit more difficult. Out of the five, two had cerabellar hypoplasia as a result of being born to a queen who had an episode of Panleukopenia in late pregnancy. The undersized portion of the brain resulted in their shaky gate, saw-horse stance, and intention tremors when they ate. They came from a litter of 5. Rachel eventually euthanized the three who would never be able to stand without aid. This was not an easy decision, but she had learned the hard way that these cats were difficult to keep and did not want heart soft heart to over power her common sense about how much time she had to care for them. She wasn't even sure if a cat that struggled so much to get to point A from point B by rolling and flopping about was very content.

The other three cats had a variety of injuries Rachel had taken care of. She was especially proud of the reconstruction she performed on the face and jaw of a cat who had come to her after being found by the side of a road by a good samaritan. Usually such severe injuries left Rachel with little choice but to euthanize. But in this case, the kitten "Ronny Purr Purr Butt" warmed her heart in a certain way with his purring and rubbing up against her despite the massive disfigurement. Once immediate care was given she decided to re-evaluate every 24 hours and let him tell her if she was doing the right thing by trying to care for him. This was helpful in her decision making when deciding to perform what seemed extraordinary care on an animal. If after 24 hours the animal was the same or better than the day before, she gave it another 24 hours, and so on. In rare cases, such as severe neurological injuries she extended the 24 hour "re-up" to 1 week. It was a valuable tool to her in that it helped prevent her from getting carried away in trying to be the hero, and forgetting the well-being of the animal she was treating.

"Ronny P. P. Butt", as her 5 year old son Mikey used to call him, would be fine. He and the other cats had rescues that would no doubt take them, especially with funds to help take care of them for the rest of their lives, should they not be rehomed.

The thoughts of the funny name given to Ronnie brought memories of Mikey flooding back to her, filling her mind's every last bit of space. Just as quickly she shook her head, and cleared him from her mind, not unlike an old etch-a-sketch being shaken clean.

It was 385 days since Rachel held Mikey, while he was alive. Her heart was broken the day she lost her five year old son, and every living moment was spent thinking of how and when she would be reunited with him. It was never a question as to whether Rachel would finally someday place an intravenous catheter into her own vein, and begin a slow drip of pentobarbital. The question was when. She just had so many loose ends to tie up first. She would not be the first veterinarian to take advantage of her knowledge and access to controlled substances to end her life. She would not be the last.

Magazines, newspapers, veterinary journals, and junk mail piled onto Rachel's kitchen table had become nothing more than information that she would never take in, and a headache that would come from sorting it after filing it away as trash or recycling. The truth of the matter was that Rachel could not look beyond the cover, even when she felt the urge to pick one up. The hope she had that something would spark her interest was there, but died out the moment she put her mind to reading anything beyond.

The feeling that she should pick up the entire mass without glancing at a single one, then putting them into the garbage bin was always so strong. It would give her a feeling of lightness, and open up a space in her home, something clean and fresh looking. Perhaps that could translate into a new feeling inside her, something she yearned for, but never expected to have again. Today was just another in a string of days she was not able to purge herself of the growing pile of junk. It wasn't as though she felt her old OCD coming on, and that she had to read each periodical cover to cover, she was just apathetic.

What did she care if they piled up. What good was a clean home? Who was there to see it but her? Today was a cold April day, rainy, and tended towards freezing once evening came on. With chores completed she had nothing that absolutely needed to be done at the moment. It was at these times she felt most alone. Busy-ness was what kept her sane and her thoughts of what she once had at bay. The hope to "cuddle up" by the fireplace with her cats, or hopes to watch a favorite movie, was squelched as a surge of sadness came over her again and again. Immediately after plopping down on the couch, she popped up again, before Racine, her long-haired tabby could make it to her lap, the cat's look of disappointment ignored by Rachel.

Refusing any thoughts of her son, Rachel mindlessly sifted through a pile of AVMA journals. Half thinking, her eyes caught a word or sentence here and there as she flipped the pages. On the third journal something caught her subconscious. What was it? She started again at the front of the journal and began flipping the pages again. It eluded her again. Almost giving up, she decided to flip through one more time. Finally, she came across a headline to a short little two paragraph article that made her blood cold: "Two teens arrested for baking puppy alive in oven". Not believing her eyes Rachel read it again, then the article.

It was at that moment of realization of what she was reading, the heinous act, the lack justice, when Rachel realized she did have a reason to live.

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