I was admittedly young and naive at 29 when I first welcomed him. Little did I know then, I was effectively entering an unconditional pact guaranteed to break my heart eventually. Loving an animal inherently imparts a few crucial lessons when they pass away.
Lesson 1: Brighten the days of those around you without expecting anything in return.
A dog’s presence is almost always enjoyed. Are people equally pleased with your company? Or are they deterred by it? Interestingly, most times, people are genuinely happy to see a dog. It’s scientifically proven that canines improve mood and well-being, particularly among seniors. When a dog enters your life, it significantly widens your emotional horizon, teaching even the most self-centered individuals to care for someone beyond themselves. The reliance of these furry friends on their human companions is evident through shared adventures, frequent dog park visits, and their significant presence in our daily routine.
Lesson 2: A dog’s love doesn’t fade. Their love is a sure thing. How many people would you say that about? Near the end, you have to unlove them or change the love to compassion to end suffering. As you watch the life leave their body you question what was the point of all the time spent, but that’s why I am writing this. To remember the cliche saying of its better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all. It’s their final lesson and no second spent with them was time wasted.
Lesson 3: Nobody is immune to times arrows. You watch as that puppy ages into an elderly dog, while you feel like you have remained the same but they have not. The feisty puppy becomes a mature senior, and the things that used to be easy are challenging. You’re reminded of your own mortality and fragility. Any act to save him would have been for my own selfish reasons. It would have just pushed the goodbye back a year down the line while the quality of life degraded. Dogs are so friendly and compassionate that putting them to sleep feels like a betrayal of trust. If you are ending their suffering, it is easier to make this decision.
Lesson 4: Goodbyes are hard, but don’t focus on the “tail end”.
As hard as goodbye are and I sat alone with his lifeless body I knew that if I did anything drastic to extend his life it would be for my sake not his. We had plenty of good times and it’s remembering the journey, not the final tail end you have to focus on.
Where does a dog’s spirit go? A runner’s spirit goes to his final race. I think a dog’s spirit goes to a massive dog park with all the friendly dogs it once played with, basking in the sun, and running around until they are tired. They are waiting for their owners to pick them up once their time has expired… Maybe…
They say it can be harder to deal with the death of a dog vs a family member depending on their role in your life. That makes sense as a dog is in your daily routine, from when you wake up, to before you go to bed. Hell, most dogs even sleep in the same bed. I think I agree with that statement.
5/18/10 to 8/6/23