euthanasia

Dogs and Death

One of the things that has always struck me as ironic is that we give our animals more dignity in death (usually) than we do our fellow human beings.  Whenever one of my animals has neared the end or contracted a deadly disease, I’ve had him/her “put down.”  I distinctly remember when my German Shepherd, Jessie, could no longer hold on at the old age of 19, and we made the decision to take her to the vet.

She couldn’t lift her head when I went out to the yard that morning to feed her.  For at least three years, her eyesight and hearing had been failing, but she still swung her tail, and she still knew that she was the one responsible for herding our other dog, a massive British Mastiff, whenever he was doing something wrong.  Though she couldn’t see me, nor hear me, when I touched her head, her tail wagged weakly, yet she couldn’t eat or drink.  I called my husband and told him to come home. Together, we went to the vet and held hands while he inserted the needle with the tranquilizers that would put her out of her misery.  Together, we cried like babies over the dog who’d been with us most of our adult lives.  Together, we buried her in the back yard where we would bury our Mastiff a scant three months later.  Leaving that house and their graves was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

During this season when all the leaves fall off the trees, the ground goes brown, and everything appears dead, Izzy is only excited.  He can see further, there are new smells, and somehow he seems to know that nothing is ever truly dead.  It’s just gone temporarily.  When we were walking this morning, it dawned on me that every day is new to him.  Ooh, what’s that over there?  Did I smell that yesterday?  I did?  Well, let me smell it again.  And that mean dog . . . there he is today.  Maybe he’ll be nice to me now.  Nope, he won’t.  Okay, let’s go the other way.  Even if he has done the same thing a hundred times, every time he does it again, it’s exciting.  He has no memory for the sadness of a dead rose bush or the crispiness of dead leaves on the ground.  A dormant rose bush is something new to investigate.  Those dead leaves?  Let’s scuff through them and throw them up in the air.

This season reminds me of all the people and things that no longer exist in my life:  those dogs I mentioned, my parents and grandparents, some friends.  I just lost my former mother-in-law last week, and the sadness that I have felt is one that deepens when I think about the fact that she is the last adult in my life.  There are no other generations before me.  I — and my siblings, my cousins, my friends — am the “older generation” now.  It dawns on me that every day brings me closer to the day that I, too, will no longer be part of this earth.

As with so many other life lessons, I learned this morning from Izzy that age simply doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t recognize dogs because they are puppies or because they are senior.  He recognizes simply that they are friends (or, in some cases, animals he needs to avoid).  He has no idea where he ranks on the scale of age, nor does he care.  He simply does.  He simply lives.  He simply explores every day as if it’s the first one.

By the time we arrived back at the house from our morning walk today, my eyes were no longer wet with the grief I felt for my mother-in-law.  Instead, I thought about the last photo she took:  nestled in a wheelchair, she weighed about 50 pounds, her cheeks sunken and unable to hold her teeth.  She wore a knitted hat over her kinky gray hair and her church friends and pastor clustered around her chair, all grinning as if enjoying a party.  In her lap, a tiny chihuahua.  I can hear her voice as if I were there myself:  “How cute!  Look at him wigglin’ all ’round.”

This week, I watched a brief video with Oprah interviewing Eckhert Tolle about what happens to us after death.  He explained that our body is a shell, animated by atoms that are pure energy.  When that energy dissipates, it leaves the shell that is our body inert.  The energy simply rejoins the other energy that powers our earth and every living being on it.  We are everything.  Everything is us.

I think animals know that.

Advertisements

Hoarders. Are they protecting animals or hurting them?

Over the weekend, a story came out in the local news about a woman who’s a former animal rescuer and how she’s been charged with animal cruelty.  Come to find out, 60 of the 93 animals in her home had to be euthanized because they were ill.  

My first thought was that she probably thought she was rescuing the animals (most were cats; 3 were dogs), but when push came to shove, she simply didn’t have the money or resources to feed all of them.  A good Samaritan whose good deeds came to a horrendous end.

I can empathize with what this woman has gone through and why she felt the need to take in so many animals.  I volunteered for a rescue service for more than a year, answering emails for them, and there were many times that I would have taken an animal that someone was trying to turn over to us.  The irony is that we couldn’t take any animals since we were a small, volunteer-run organization with no “home office.”  Instead, we rescued from the shelters, but only when one of our foster homes had space for another animal.  As a result, the animals we fostered had a solid foundation, usually learned some basic commands, and were in much better condition when their forever homes finally found them.

I do remember one particular email that I received on a cold January afternoon.  A woman had bought a Havanese pup from a breeder.  Nine weeks old, black/white/brown, and full of mischief, the pup would have made anyone who saw it say, “awww.”  In her email, the woman’s anguish came through clearly.  She had paid $900 for the pup, plus all of the food, toys, and accouterments necessary to make a home for the little guy.  But less than two weeks after bringing him home, she lost her job and was being forced to move in with her daughter — into a home which didn’t allow pets.  The woman simply wanted someone to take and love her pup.  No money was necessary.  Just give him a good home.

My heart broke for both the pup and the woman, and I wanted desperately to take him in.  At the time, I didn’t have Izzy, but I had dreams of having a pup like the Havanese, and here was my chance.  Unfortunately, I already had a cat and lived in an apartment complex where one pet was the rule.  My cat, Jojo, was 18 years old, blind and deaf, and I knew she didn’t have much longer to live, but bringing a pup into the house (secretly–which I was ready to do) would not have been fair to her. 

I often wonder what happened to that woman and to the pup, just as I’m going to wonder what’s going to happen to this woman who is probably brokenhearted that her plan for rescue has resulted in her arrest.

If you want to read the full story, cut and paste this link in your browser:  http://www.examiner.com/article/former-animal-rescue-head-charged-after-90-cats-found-her-nc-home