Those who regularly torture themselves by reading my weekly posts, will know that recently our dog, Griffin, has had some difficult days and last week a visit to the vet disclosed what previous visits had not, and that was that Griffin had cancer in several places in his body. There was an initial discussion in the family as to whether Griffin should be euthanized, but based on the vets assurances that he was not in any great discomfort or pain, the family decided that Griffin would continue on and hopefully die peacefully at home. This morning, our beloved eleven year old puppy took a turn for the worst and was taken to the vet and was peacefully put down. So ends the life of a beloved furry family member who was one of the calmest, best behaved dogs that I have ever experienced.
The photo below shows Griffin, the brown Labradoodle riding in the back of a convertible with his constant companion, Uma, our white poodle. Griffin had confided in me that whenever he was driving in the back of the convertible, he felt particularly attractive to female dogs (perhaps his own midlife crisis). He also confided that at those times he felt particularly resentful of having been neutered.
Death has been on my mind lately, whether by reason of knowing of the impending death of our family dog, or our oldest son's near fatal accident in the summer.
When I was a child, death was a tragedy to be feared. The worst thing that could happen. Growing up in a company mining town, my experience was that when one of my friend's fathers died of a heart attack not only did they lose their father but they were also forced to leave the community no later than the end of the school year, so that their house could be freed up for another mining employee. My observation was that on the death of a father my friends would lose not only a beloved family member, but all of their friends and the stability of living in the community in which they were born.
But over time as I've aged, I recognize that death is not to be feared, and is a natural part of life. In fact, it is perhaps death that makes life meaningful. Unlike in previous centuries where people died at home, and death was a family event, our society has been inclined to remove the person, and quite often they die on their own in a hospital. We do the same thing with pets when we take them to be euthanized.
When my mother died at the age of 90, having required a second operation within a week that she was not able to survive, it was some comfort that when she died we were all able to spend the morning holding her hand and talking to her. Somehow that felt much better than simply being told of a death, as in the case of my father, 15 years earlier. Although I certainly don't equate the death of our dog with the death of my mother, I do see the benefit of the dog, having spent a week at our house clearly dying, and the children hand feeding him steak and other delectables, and hugging him, and cuddling him at all times. He truly seemed to enjoy his last week, and I believe it was healthy for our teen aged children.
I think our society has removed us from death, and weakened our understanding that it is a natural part of life, and not necessarily even a bad part of life, although, obviously, the death of a young person is tragic. But for people and animals that have lived a full life, of course one grieves, but that is not necessarily the absolute tragedy that I viewed it to be when I was a child. I have slowly developed the accepting attitude that my father exhibited all of his life. That allowed him to joke about death, particularly his own, and not fear it.
We all learn about death in our own ways from our own experiences. I'm trusting that the death of our beloved puppy helped provide my children with a healthy understanding of death.
Rest in peace, Griffin.
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