Our dog Chester has been gone for about three weeks now. Amidst all the comings and goings of the holidays, his absence has been strange but not overwhelming. The activity of kids coming and going, relatives visiting from out of state and friends stopping by have been a buffer between his departure and the void of caring for him.
As the last loved one walks out the door after the holidays, we are facing the quiet reality that our dog is missing. Post holiday solitude is difficult every time, but especially this particular time when we don’t have the distraction of our pet and carrying out the habits we formed in seeing to his needs. There have been moments of missing him. We have seen his phantom image out of the corner of our eyes only to realize afterwards that our minds are playing tricks on us. I keep expecting to hear the click of his nails on the tile as if he’s approaching. When something drops on the floor while cooking, we have to actually pick it up. We miss our fluffy vacuum cleaner. People who have come to our home have missed their expected greeting. The sound of the doorbell is now a surprise without our advanced warning of his barking alarm.
On the other hand, temperatures have plummeted this week and Mr. Legs isn’t missing the required evening walks. When people come to the house, we aren’t distracted by an animal trying to jump on them. No more picking up trash he has gotten into. The baby gate is put away, the dog beds are donated and the shelf that housed his food and treats is free for another use. Our house is cleaner without hair floating in the air or collecting in tufts on the floor. I wore black pants the other day without looking like I was also wearing the dog.
As with most changes in life, there are pros and cons to Chester being gone. We know we gave him a loving home and treated him well for the duration of his life. Right now with our circumstances, life is easier without a pet. He was more than ready to go and it was obvious he was hurting. We have no moral dilemma about our decision to have him finish his life peacefully and comfortably instead of allowing him to let the elements of nature take him as he was attempting to do.
There is still that nagging question in my mind though… why is it okay to put an animal “to sleep” when it is unable to function, but not acceptable to do the same for humans. We comfort ourselves by saying it is best for our pets and releases them from suffering. We hope they move on to a better place. And yet we feel an obligation to prolong the life of humans sometimes beyond their place of comfort and against their wishes. Before, I had a strong opinion about what some call euthanizing or mercy killing. Now, I may feel differently. I am in no way suggesting people be forced, pressured or coerced into moving forward before they are ready, but what if someone is ready? If someone truly believes a better life follows this one, then why do we insist he/she try so hard to remain here when a physical condition offers no hope of improvement?
The similarities of our dog’s failing physical condition and my own do not escape me.. He could no longer walk and care for himself. I haven’t been able to do the same for some time now. However, my questions are not of my personal situation but how we think and respond generally on this subject. Medical intervention offers choices and shouldn’t each person be free of judgment from others about their decisions? I understand that God made people in His image and above animals. I’m just not sure where I stand on allowing nature to take its course for people as well, if that is what the individual wishes. Does our decision not to allow people to make their own choices place us above or below animals?
My recent experience with a loved pet finds me contemplating the complicated moral and political implications of this issue for our society and all of mankind. As I reevaluate my opinion about this controversial topic, I welcome your comments.