Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dogs and endings

It was a happy weekend for many reasons, not the least of which was the matching of a rescued foster dog with a really nice family who give every sign of being a great forever match. Callie (the spelling is actually "Caleigh" but since it always trips me up I've given you the phonetic, easy version) is a sweet female about 2 years old, who was clearly used as a puppy mill and just as clearly spent most of her life before she came to Boxer Aid & Rescue in a crate. She was a challenge for us, not because she wasn't housebroken (she is). Not because she wasn't eager to please (she is), and not because she was badly-behaved (she wasn't). No, poor Callie came to us with A TAIL, and as people used to Boxers, it took us by surprise. It banged into things. It knocked tables over. On many hilarious occasions, it whipped into the faces of the other dogs, so that Calvin, our charming, wide-bodied male, averted his head when she came too close, blinking his eyes cautiously. But some very nice people saw her online, came to meet her, and took her home this weekend. Happy people, happy Callie, and I dearly hope, happy ending.

Coincidentally, I heard from April's adoptive family this week, too. I've written about April here; you may recall. She is a canine survivor of breast cancer, and one of our favorite foster dogs, ever. Her family informed me a few weeks back that she has a recurrence of cancer, inoperable, and they will continue to love and care for her now, while she feels great, and through the onset of symptoms to the end of her life. Here's some of what her adoptive family said:
"We are very, very blessed to have April. She is doing very well and has spoiled us tremendously. April is exactly what we were looking for and is our perfect dog. We will send pictures from the cancer walk where April wore a cancer survivor shirt! ...we especially like it when she GRUNTS as she is talking to us! And LORD, some days she “talks” more than some humans! Thanks for all the prayers being said for April...we understand the issues April has, but we try not to dwell on them each day...as long as she is happy, we are happy..." I had to laugh out loud reading this, because April is one of the most vocal dogs I've known, making a determined, grumbling sound when communicating with her people. And though she has inoperable cancer, she'll have a great life until she can't, any longer. She's a great dog, and she'll be give the love and dignity of a great ending.

Often I talked to Rodney's dad about dying. He couldn't remember he had Alzheimer's, but he said over and over again, "People should have an off switch; I should be able to say I'm finished, There should be a CHOICE". I talked to my dear old friend Carrie about death. Her perspective was more of the "Live strong and live long" variety, though she embraced the notion of living well and living at home when she knew the fight had ended. There are more examples, but I always end by thinking about the high standards with which we treat pets (dogs, in my case). I always think of standing shoulder to shoulder with the vet; I always think about crying my eyes out but being grateful for the joyful release from suffering.

And I think now how shamefully small the comparison of a dog's life is to that of any human, and do not AT ALL presume to draw a parallel. I am grateful for Carrie's life, for Lynn's life, for Helen's life, for Charley's life, and for so many others, lived with grace and humor and breathtaking courage and grace. For me, the lives of dogs and in some ways, the death of dogs, have made the loss of each of those humans just a tiny, tiny bit more bearable.

And so: here's to you April, and your darling family. Here's to you, Callie, and your delightful family and future. And here's to all of you who have gone before, human or canine. Love, love, love.


  1. I only wish that humans COULD take that choice of release. It's so cruel that we cannot.

  2. Well, being that our pets become a vital part of our families, yes, I feel the comparison is okay ~ pets also show tremendous grace and humor and compassion.

    I wish Callie lots more quality time with her adopted family and a peaceful transition for all.

  3. I think the comparison is just fine as well. Our Dusty was a rescued stray, and he is the best dog ever. Loyal and sweet and patient with little ones and oh so protective. He has a brutally strong tail as well. I can't imagine him not being part of us.

    If I had Alzheimer's I'd want an off switch too

  4. Dear ones, thank you for your thoughts on this difficult topic.
    Ms. Moon, I could not agree with you more: so often Rodney's dad would say the same thing out loud: It is cruel for you not to put me to sleep; this is no life for me. It was so painful, so heartbreaking, and so devoid of viable choices.
    Lulu, good point, too. As you WELL know, for us pets are members of the family we couldn't do without, and would never consent to them suffering in this way.
    Michelle, me, too! The trouble is in the decision-making, I suppose, and in who gets trusted with that. For my own part, I'd want a switch, too, and would want to be able to say who I'd trust to throw that switch. Now that I think of it, I'd trust any of you to make that call. Based on love and trust and intelligent exchanges before onset of the symptoms, each of you is a well-qualified judge in my book.
    Love, love.


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