I pissed off a neighbor the other day.
It wasn’t my intention, but I did it just the same. You would think that after 54 years of life on this planet, I’d learn to keep my mouth shut.
Here’s what happened:
This guy and his wife own a pair of dogs, a couple of Heinz 57 mutts with sweet personalities and hearts of gold. The boy-dog is a shepherd mix. The girl-dog is a lab lookalike.
These dogs are old. The boy, he’s not so bad. Starting to show a little arthritis, some grey on the muzzle. The female is particularly frail. She wobbles when she walks. Her weight has dropped to an alarming degree. She has “issues.”
That’s the word her owner uses for whatever ails her. He’s never actually told me what it is. But he did inform me several weeks ago that their veterinarian had recommended they have the dog put down.
They won’t do it.
I understand what it’s like to face that decision. Those of you who know me and/or follow this blog know that I lost five family pets in a little over two and a half years. I understand only too well the difficulty in making that decision. I know first-hand the pain and grief , the remorse and reluctance, and the desire to try just one more thing., to capture one more day. I know all about not wanting to say goodbye.
It’s the downside of pet ownership, and rarely is the decision taken from our hands. According to my vet, the illustrious Doctor Gamble, it’s not often that a pet cooperates by quietly dying in its sleep. More often than not, we are called upon to make that horrible choice, to give that final gift only we can bestow as owners, what I view as a final act of love. Do we want our animals to die? Of course not. Do we want to make their passing as easy as possible on them AND us? Yes, I think we do.
So when my neighbor mentioned earlier this week that the dog was failing (trouble walking, peeing on herself), I gently suggested that perhaps it was time. His sad response was that he agreed, but his wife wouldn’t let him, that she wasn’t ready to let the dog go. And my big-mouthed reply was to do it anyway.
He lost it, and I deserved his anger. Pointing at my husband, he yelled, “Would you kill your pet if he didn’t want you to?”
“Yes,” I said. “If it was the best thing for the animal.”
“But not behind my back,” my clear-thinking husband was quick to add. “That’s not a good way to do it.”
No, it isn’t, but what’s the alternative when someone won’t acknowledge what’s happening? Should an animal suffer because their owner can’t say goodbye?
I handled this poorly, I know. I’d like to apologize, but I’m not sure how to approach this man in his grief and anger. Perhaps later, once the dog is finally laid to rest, I’ll be able to visit and extend my condolences and apologize for my ham-fisted way. I meant no harm. I just feel bad for the dog.
But it’s their dog, not mine. This isn’t my decision to make. I don’t live with the animal. I don’t see how she functions day-to-day. Her owner says that “she still has joy in life.” That may be, but I wonder sometimes…just sometimes…if joy is enough.