Sorry feline fans, but no cat can compare. Yes, I admit: I have a prejudice here.
Dogs have been with us since we became sentient. I’m sure they were attracted to our camp fires, or our warm caves; maybe both? They are scavengers, but kind ones… mostly. And they love being part of the pack. Doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, hippie-like, a racist, left, right, atheist, cult leader… dogs just want to be with you, play with you, share the joy of life with you.
How many times did we have to take Batmutt, our last pup, back to our porch, to remind him, and his companion Frankincense the collie, to “stay,” when we had to leave? Dogs so want to go everywhere, anywhere, with us.
Batmutt, the Don Quixote of dogs, died the day before I started writing this. For many, many months, maybe half a year he slowly slipped from that well loved, windmill seeking, noise box who would challenge leaves when they moved, bite sea waves, spin in circles, into being, oh, so silent.
He was called “Batmutt” because I commented, when we got him, that if you put wings on him he’d look like a bat.
Maybe now he has wings?
At least the pup who tried to bully the collie, chased the cats, went after wild beasts ten times his size, but shook in fear during storms, “isn’t afraid of thunder anymore,” as Millie just said to when she found his thunder vest today as we cleaned. This marketing wonder worked… somewhat.
We were never quite sure, nor was the vet, what was wrong. At first we thought it was kidney damage that started this long slide into dog hell. He had just gotten off a long round of conquering heartworms when, for some unknown reason, his treatment failed him. But then he started shaking, going into spasms and collapsing, and the doctors thought maybe it was a nerve condition that comes with old age that started it all.
We were force feeding him, using hydration fluid bought from the vet at our almost weekly visits. He would get better, better, then slide back into a deep pit that had become even deeper. We were using an eyedropper to get even more water into him, feeding him baby food with meat. In the end it was a fight to feed him anything, a fight we all lost.
As owners many of us have had to euthanize our dogs. Millie and I had to have it done to Frankincense last year. If we had known Batmutt wouldn’t improve over all it that would have been better than all he went through. Indeed, in some cases, if humans were wiser, and more trustworthy, maybe, in certain cases, it would be better for us too.
Spending months on his back, bloated, was no way for my uncle to die.
Seven years of getting, oh, so close to the edge of from death cancer was no way for my mother to go.
Being taken apart due to severe burns and diabetes no way for my father to pass.
Depite all the claims about “letting God decide,” that are somewhat beside the point because we do “decide” when we use drugs, antibiotics, operations, intravenous fluids, radiation… I sincerely think we are less accepting of helping others go because we simply don’t, even can’t, trust each other. Even worse: sometimes because our more corrupt nature favors using everything, anything, to gain political and social advantage over each other.
Are we really a “sentient” species?
I admit I find it impossible to accept the concept that any deity worth worshiping would grant us the ability to think, to imagine, to find ways to save lives, or do the humane thing and help our pets let go, who would also demand our loved ones must needlessly suffer when the outcome is so obvious, the torment so real.
We need to find our way to being able to offer the same kind of kindness to each other that we offer our pets. If only we can get beyond our darker nature and dogma. And maybe if we can find our way past our own failings we will find ourselves closer to truly loving each other, as the most popular prophet in human history pleaded for us to do.
I admit, it so very hard, indeed almost impossible, to make that decision, even when it’s a pet.
Batmutt was really Millie’s dog. I’m the collie guy, always have been. I felt bad for Frankincense the collie in our former two dog house. How does a bigger pup compete with a hug-able, fur covered, all too needy, hyper, lap lying, teddy bear that small dogs are? It’s almost as if lap dogs are born with a wife magnet inside.
Maybe I should be thankful, considering whom she married? I’ve shed most of my “fur,” like my beard. Hopefully that matters less than one might think.
In the end I think Batmutt passing hurt me as much as it did Millie.
Dogs have been sharing our lives for so many times. They have been discover in digs hugged by their owners during their final moments: Pompeii. They prove we can get beyond our partisan nonsense, our thinking that if someone doesn’t agree, or isn’t like us, there must be someone wrong with them.
If only we could be more like them, and less like our deeply dark, and very bloody, side.
One of my more recent fascinations was a muse in a book I read where, a few years after a dog dies, a child walks up and says something to the former master that makes him think when pets die maybe they return as humans, and maybe even find ways to thank us.
If even highly unlikely, how fascinating, how just, might it be if we return as pets to people who treat us just like we treated our pets. That would be, not just a repeating circle, but both a possible blessing, and a warning, a curse to be fulfilled for the cruel, the sadistic.
I’m not claiming I believe any of this. But I would hope, if true, when we do find each other again and again, we heal old wounds, re-teach forgotten lessons, keep filling each other with more love: for we are all leaking, broken, cups.
Another muse: what if we are already at that final destination so many faiths believe in? What if the lives we live here: dogs and humans, are but mere reflections of who we really are, images from some endlessly deep, eternal, celestial pool?
Maybe none of this is true. Maybe there’s no “after,” If so, here’s to making this a better place for each other during the brief time we, and even briefer time our non-human family members, are here.
Whatever the truth is, I have no doubt dogs are our greatest, “best-est,” companions, and they absolutely help us, love us, while they share this trail we all must travel.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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