For the love of dogs…

1 Mar

I lost our dog in the summer of 2005. She was fifteen-years-old, blind since the age of eight, and paralyzed by arthritis. We made the painful decision to euthanize her when her suffering became too much to bear, for us and for her. Thinking about the day I took her to the vet wrings my heart and the tears prickle my eyes. I get that tight, painful feeling in my face one does when trying to hold back tears. Sometimes I let myself cry, like now.

What is love? I asked that question to the vet that day in the clinic. My love for her was as real as any I have ever experienced. She was my friend when I had none, my companion when I felt abandoned, and the happy playmate of my youth.

 I held her as she took her last breaths and stroked her till the end. She seemed to be sleeping. I gave her a bath the day before, and her hair gleamed with reddish highlights. Her chest and belly became as white as a freshly laundered handkerchief, as it always did.

Even at the last moment, I asked the doctor if I was doing the right thing. I had the impulse to stop him, but I remembered her pain, her distress and her life, so bereft of joy. Still, there are moments when I wonder. If our family circumstances had been different at that time, could we have managed better? Could we have made her more comfortable and prolonged her life a little longer? Is euthanasia morally right? It’s too late now, and most of the time I am reconciled with my actions and feel that any other course would have been for my own gratification only.

My mother says she will never have another dog, because she suffered so much when Catira (which is a Venezuelan term for blond people) lost her eyesight due to congenital glaucoma. But I have such wonderful memories; sometimes I can feel the touch of her downy fur and a wave of tenderness sweeps over me. I would not trade that for anything.

I found this poem among some papers that I unpacked yesterday. It is by Billy Collins, who became Poet Laureate of the United States in 2001. It brought a smile to my face. Here’s an excerpt:

Dharma

by Billy Collins

 

The way the dog trots out the front door

every morning

without a hat or an umbrella,

without any money

or the keys to her doghouse

never fails to fill the saucer of my heart

with milky admiration.

 

Who provides a finer example

of a life without encumbrance-

Thoreau in his curtain-less hut

with a single plate, a single spoon?

Gandhi with his staff and his holy

diapers?

 

Off she goes into the material world

with nothing but her brown coat

and her modest blue collar,

following only her wet nose,

the twin portals of her steady breathing,

followed only by the plume of her tail.

 

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3 Responses to “For the love of dogs…”

  1. Charlotte March 2, 2007 at 11:53 pm #

    Sorry to hear about your beloved dog-pal who is no longer with you. I do love that poem – so simple and so doggy.

  2. "J" June 10, 2007 at 11:52 pm #

    I have two dogs and they are often the brightest part of my day. I know that one day I too will have to go through this and it is almost unimaginable. I hope you have found some peace.

  3. lvmg June 11, 2007 at 3:11 pm #

    Thank you, J. I will always miss our dog, and will never forget the pain of losing her, but I am very happy to have so many memories. I am also glad to say that she had a lot of love and happiness.

    Dogs are beautiful animals.

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