Thursday, August 1, 2013

The life of a dog

Hanna, our neighbour’s dog, passed away two months ago.
I used to babysit Hanna whenever our neighbours went out of town. Having retired early from law practice, I have so much time to spare in-between my reading and writing. All I had to do was go to our neighbour’s house every two hours to check on Hanna and walk her in the garden where she could relieve.
I noticed that Hanna was limping as I walked her down the stairs towards the garden at the back of our neighbour’s house. She was obviously in great pain. I wondered if it was due to old age, she was close to 12 years old (about 84 years old in dog years), and dogs of her size would be very lucky to live beyond 10 years. But our neighbours were the type who would pamper their dog with love. Maybe it was because they were childless and Hanna served as a surrogate for the child they wished they had.

My daughter's old dog, Larkin, frolicking on the snow. Click link to view
Things Dog Teach Us,
When our neighbours came back from their camping trip in the woodlands of Northern Ontario, I told them about Hanna’s limp. Hanna had arthritis and it had been deteriorating, our neighbours said. In fact, Hanna had an appointment with the vet the day after they returned. She was getting chemotherapy treatment. This fact didn’t shock me because I knew our neighbours would go beyond the extra mile to keep their Hanna alive and comfortable.
Yesterday, when I looked down at our neighbour’s backyard from our deck, a brown and cheerful canine spurted out to a clatter of barking, then wagged its tail endlessly. Could be the new dog, Hanna’s replacement, I guessed. I have learned from babysitting Hanna that a dog’s tail is the best indicator of its emotions. The more a dog wags its tail, the happier it is.
Dogs, like humans, can also stir up a big controversy, a domain usually reserved for politicians and movie stars. Iggy, the dog TV talkshow host Ellen de Generes adopted is a perfect illustration. When Ellen decided to give Iggy to her hairdresser, Mutts and Moms, the dog’s adoption agency, took him back. The papers Ellen signed with the adoption agency stipulated that if the dog was given away, it would have to go back to the rescue organization. Ellen de Generes was so shattered by this turn of events that she sobbed in front of her TV audience and millions of people who regularly watched her show. The dog agency even received several death threats. Could this be an example of the decline of American culture?
People who had nothing better to do would pick up the telephone and threaten other folks just because of a dog. Our neighbours wouldn’t ever dare to give Hanna away or to even let her die in pain. They would give her the best available health care possible. It was only when Hanna’s life was severely compromised by her illness that our neighbours decided, which I knew was a painstaking process for them, to bring Hanna to the vet to end her life swiftly and without complication. I am confident, too, that our youngest daughter will do the same thing with her dog Larkin who is also very close to the twilight of his life. [Larkin also passed away more than five years ago and our daughter has adopted Onegin, a Golden Retriever, since.]
Onegin after retrieving the ball from the snow.
If only we could be as humane and as kind to others as we are to our pets, view the life of a dog as precious as the life of another human being: whether a homeless person in Toronto or of those famished and starving-to-death little children in Darfur.
But the life of dogs compared to humans is not without its interesting twists. In a French shorts, La Vie D’un Chien (The Life of a Dog), a French scientist invents a serum which temporarily changes him into a dog. It is only later, after the serum wears off and he becomes human again, that his troubles begin. Perhaps, there is a valuable story to be learned, particularly during those times when our lives seem to have gone to the dogs.
[This is a repost of an earlier blog I wrote in June 2008. I’ll be away on a trip so I will be reposting some old blogs.]

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