It's A Dog's Life
September 18, 2010 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Caring about something is about taking the pain and the joy. The pain is hard. Taking the pain, facing it, dealing with it are the ways I think we can show we really care. That we know we care. --Bob, the story of a dog.
posted by Gator (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Warning: known to induce tears.

Gosh, way to hit close to home. My parents had to kill our family dog (she grew up with me from about 5th grade through graduating college) a month ago. I keep forgetting not to ask about our old lady dog on the phone, now.

The comic was cute. A bit visually clunky, but sweet, and very, very true.
posted by Mizu at 7:25 AM on September 18, 2010

Damn, such a beautiful day, and now I have tears in my eyes. Just once, I'd like to read a dog story that doesn't end the same way.
posted by lobstah at 7:26 AM on September 18, 2010

David Letterman always seems pained when he talks about pets. "They'll break your heart in the end, every time," he always says.

This was a pretty typical dog story, at least as good dogs go -- and a lot of them are good. They're a pretty neurotic species, and the story didn't really capture that, but perhaps this was a pretty mellow dog. Sometimes they're like little tortured saints, completely at the mercy of their extreme emotions (has there ever been a species that suffered separation anxiety like dogs do?), but they're so often so friendly and happy to have your company, which they often so thoroughly enjoy. Bringing very social dogs to retirement homes and hospitals can be miraculous, and the comic captured that.

And then they die, and they do so after such a short time. Perhaps it's useful. After all, everything we love dies sooner or later, or we do. Perhaps a lifetime of losing the pets you love prepares you for the end of your life, when the people you love start passing away, one after the other, very quickly. Maybe this is the last gift dogs have to offer us -- practice for preparing for our own mortality.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:23 AM on September 18, 2010 [11 favorites]

Maybe this is the last gift dogs have to offer us -- practice for preparing for our own mortality.

I'd wager there are other things too -- and I'd say it's true of "pets" rather than just "dogs". I lost my cat a month ago (like Bob, he was a very distinguished old age), and it was indeed hard, but he'd made a lot of friends in his time and I let them all know.

One of those people is a very dear friend who lives in Ireland. She emailed me a week ago to say that she wanted to come for a visit, the first she's made in twelve years. And the reason why she said she was finally coming was: Zach dying made her realize "how quickly the time goes," and so she decided that instead of telling herself she'd "eventually" visit again, she decided to sieze the day and make it happen.

They prepare us for our own mortality, but they also remind us that we do have life beyond them -- that we need to live FOR them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:43 AM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Ain't that the truth.

Putting aside the dog, since the day I got married (a little more than 3 years ago), I've been viscerally aware that one of my wife or I will have to suffer through the process of losing the love of our life.

The choice you make is to endure the pain in exchange for the immeasurable joy you get from having something in your life you love so much. To my mind, acknowledging that it is, in fact, a trade off makes the time you have with the people/things you love even more precious. It makes you grateful for every day.

It's the nature of life and the sooner you learn that, the better off you are.
posted by dry white toast at 8:53 AM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

I had to take an old pal to do this a couple of years ago. He wasn't dying of anything except old age; nothing terminal except the calendar. But he got to the point where he couldn't control his bladder, and he was having seizures and - somehow this was worst of all - sometimes he would bark at the wall for 15-20 minutes.

It gets really incremental - first it's a small thing, then it's something else. You say, oh, I'll just give him some medicine every day. Then more. Then you have to leave the door open all the time so he can get out because he's got about 10 seconds to make it out before he starts.

And at some point, you realize it's not for him any longer, it's for you, and he's a miserable blind confused animal. And then it's time to go.

You call the vet to schedule a specific time because you're going to lose it if you have to sit in a waiting room with a bunch of people waiting patiently with thier dogs. And you show up, and they're not ready, so you sit in the car with him and feed him cheeseburgers (the nose still works 100%) until they wave at you from the window and it's time.

The rest is in the comic. Including the crying. And the people who told me it's sissy to cry over your dog while he's dying in front of you are sincerely, truly invited to go f*ck themselves.

On a brighter note, this is a speech by a lawyer who seemed to nicely encapsulate the reason why we love these sniffing, chewing, licking, pooping, peeing, car-chasing, barking little critters.
posted by lon_star at 8:59 AM on September 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

gator, do you know how much i hate you right now for posting this? I'd write more about why, but i can't see to type...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 9:10 AM on September 18, 2010

Why old dogs are the best dogs
posted by Joe Beese at 9:55 AM on September 18, 2010

I don't really ever want another pet. It's like even with animals I do NOT care for-dogs in particular-it seems I identify with them way too much. I went thru too much pain and empathy when a HAMSTER died at our house, much less anything bigger.

Our store has a shop dog, Rosie. She is leashed to an office chair and is content as long as someone is in the office with her. If everyone has to be in the back working on flowers she is miserable. What a horrible existence. But yet they can't leave her home because she would be way more anxious there. You don't WANT to be around an anxious Boxer.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:27 AM on September 18, 2010

NSFW, if you're the kind of person who cries at pet stories.

I definitely am.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:19 AM on September 18, 2010

This post needs a soundtrack
posted by timsteil at 12:40 PM on September 18, 2010

The sine qua non of the life-and-death-of-a-pet piece is surely James Thurber's Snaphot of a Dog'. But this was good.
posted by Hogshead at 1:39 PM on September 18, 2010

And the people who told me it's sissy to cry over your dog while he's dying in front of you are sincerely, truly invited to go f*ck themselves.

I used to be one of those people, until I realized exactly how painful losing one of those dogs can be. Granted, they're not people, but they're damn better than a few I know.
posted by kurosawa's pal at 3:16 PM on September 18, 2010

Another Dog’s Death

For days the good old bitch had been dying, her back
pinched down to the spine and arched to ease the pain,
her kidneys dry, her muzzle white. At last
I took a shovel into the woods and dug her grave

in preparation for the certain. She came along,
which I had not expected. Still, the children gone,
such expeditions were rare, and the dog,
spayed early, knew no nonhuman word for love.

She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag.
We found a spot we liked, where the pines met the
The sun warmed her fur as she dozed and I dug;
I carved her a safe place while she protected me.

I measured her length with the shovel’s long handle;
she perked in amusement, and sniffed the heaped-up
Back down at the house, she seemed friskier,
but gagged, eating. We called the vet a few days later.

They were old friends. She held up a paw, and he
injected a violet fluid. She swooned on the lawn;
we watched her breathing quickly slow and cease.
In a wheelbarrow up to the hole, her warm fur shone.

posted by puny human at 3:55 PM on September 18, 2010 [4 favorites]

The Power Of The Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie—
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find—it's your own affair—'ve given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone—wherever it goes—for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long—
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

— Rudyard Kipling

When am I going to learn not to read threads about dogs or cats? *sniffle*
posted by Lexica at 5:03 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

No -- Eugene O'Neill's essay on the death of his dog is the best.

Dogs do not fear death as men do. We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life. What may come after death, who knows? I would like to believe with those of my fellow Dalmatians who are devout Mohammedans, that there is a Paradise where one is always young and full-bladdered; where all the day one dillies and dallies with an amorous multitude of houris, beautifully spotted; where jack rabbits that run fast but not too fast (like the houris) are as the sands of the desert; where each blissful hour is mealtime; where in long evenings there are a million fireplaces with logs forever burning, and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days on earth, and the love of one's Master and Mistress.

I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect. But peace, at least, is certain. Peace and long rest for weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth I have loved so well. Perhaps, after all, this is best.

....I always loved this essay; about two years ago I worked on a show that was a collection of O'Neill works, and we ended the night with one actor doing this as a monologue. We had people get choked up every night.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:52 PM on September 18, 2010

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