Sunday, October 10, 2010
The Old Brown Dog
There is something about outliving our pets that doesn't make sense to me. In the great "system" of things, why is it that we even have pets and why do they not live as long as us? What is the purpose of having animals?-some kind of personal living mammal elixir that calms us? Is it some sort of purpose driven programing that we need to experience, pets being the practice round? What purpose does having to make the decision to end a (their) life provide?--on their behalf, in their best interest, to put them down--to push them out of this world with as simple as a nod to the veterinarian? What-a-bummer that was.
I am traumatized and so is Janie. We got Amy from a rescue center almost 16 years ago. She was on "day 5" so there wasn't much time left for the dirty brown Shelty, Beagle, Shepperd mix, around one year old. Janie brought her home but first had her wormed and fixed. My first memory of her was that she was so frail on the first day, curled up on the chair, shaking off the anesthesia from whatever operation she had had. So similar to my last memory of her, curled up on the "big pillow" barely able to raise her head and display the familiar spark of "hey, don't forget about me". It had been a bad night, the kidney's shutting down. It was an even worse morning for her and she wasn't going to make it.
Amy was a very loyal dog, never got lost, never once stepped outside of the yard or wandered off. She was a great trail dog when hiking. Always leading up the trail and then coming back to shew the group forward. She would chase the deer off in order to provide a safe path. That is what she thought she was doing, keeping the dangerous deer away from her family. Later she became possessive of her time with us and liked to shew people away from the house if she didn't get the attention that she wanted when we had guests. "SCRATCH-MY-HEAD, don't worry about your guests".
I took the better part of a day digging a hole and putting her in it. We have a nice back yard with a hill and it seemed prudent to go ahead and bring her home instead of leaving her there at the vet. They will cremate your dog for you and you can pick them up later at the vet, where we go. I thought that strange and wanted nothing of it. We have buried all of our animals so why make it different with Amy. I prefer to think that she would have liked that better. I know it gave Janie better comfort that way. She was able to see how peaceful she was after several weeks of being sick.
Yep, I reckon it is pretty obvious to me why we have pets now, why they die before us in the greater scheme of things. Why we take in pets and choose to make them a part of our lives. After burying the only dog that we have had as a family of 21 years, it was pretty obvious that the experience gave us the opportunity to check in on ourselves. Our love for another, the old "what would happen" if we didn't have each other type of thing; that's what Amy's gift was. I held my wife with a care and concern like I hadn't done in quite a long time. My daughter coming around later in the day, to try and figure out what had just happened, and seeking that father daughter re-assurance, that which fades over time but is always there when needed.
I get it now. There is a reflection of ourselves in the pets we own. That of our own condition. A reminder of our own mortality and of our brief time here. The death of a pet is a check in, a shock of reality that alerts us of our condition, should it need to change for the better, should it require a re-kindling of love for each other. I suppose it kind of makes sense that way.
Goodbye Amy, the old brown dog. You were a gift in the beginning and in the end.