Sunday, February 10, 2008

Another kind of purpose driven life

This story came to me in an email from a parishioner (thanks, Jack!) and I offer it this First Sunday in Lent with prayers to all for a Holy Lent and Joyous Easter!

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long."


Lessons we can learn from a dog

(Which would also make an excellent list for a Lenten Discipline!)

  • Live simply.

  • Love generously.

  • Care deeply.

  • Speak kindly.

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy. Take naps.

  • Stretch before rising.

  • Run, romp, and play daily.

  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

  • Be loyal.

  • Never pretend to be something you're not.

  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.


Bruce said...

This post might have saved the life, tonight, of a particular Border Collie named Lucy, which sometimes seems as if it must be short for Lucifer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that, Susan.
The boy got it right.

RonF said...

The child is made of sterner stuff than I, then. We had to euthanize one of our cats a while back. I cried like a baby. But then, perhaps I am more aware of the passing of part of myself than a child is.

Rev. David Justin Lynch said...

My wife and I are childfree by choice and have instead opted for dogs. During our 15 year relationship, 12 as a married couple, three of our dogs have died, Buffy unexpectedly at age 16 and Gumples at age 15 after a short illness. Dolly developed cancer (at age 12) and unfortunately as that time we did not have medical insurance for her. We spent $10,000 of our money which bought her about another year of life due to chemotherapy, radiation and surgery (most of what can be done medically and surgically for people can be done for dogs). Never once did we consider euthanasia, despite the cost of keeping Dolly alive until God took her on God's timetable and not ours. We believe euthanizing what some consider as animals is morally wrong for the same reasons it would be wrong to euthanize my 85 year old mother who is stricken with Parkinsons. Simply put, our dogs are our family, and we don't kill family members no matter how expensive they become. How can we arrogate ourselves to the position of God and decide that a dog's life is less precious than that of a human person, or that we should decide who shall live, who shall die, when and how? If Molly, Hoochie or Bailey, our present family, were in the same situation, we would see that they received the best of care, and we would pray that God would heal them. Euthanasia of anyone should be illegal. Murder is murder.

RonF said...

Never once did we consider euthanasia, despite the cost of keeping Dolly alive until God took her on God's timetable and not ours.

David, I love animals too, but you took Dolly off of God's timetable as soon as you put Dolly on chemo.