Yesterday, I heard someone say, advertising some adventure show or another, "Everybody dies, but not everybody lives." I just had to stop and ponder that. I do that now and then, just stop and ponder. I don't especially mean for the Shady Rest blog to focus on death, but at the same time, when you tend to cater to senior and special needs animals, in multiples, it is a topic that comes up perhaps a bit more often than in the average house with pets.
That's not to say the Shady Rest is a gloomy place, with death always hovering in the air. On the contrary, we celebrate life here! There's nothing like first-hand knowledge of just how short life can be to make every moment savory. Cj and I were working in the kitchen the other day, singing with the radio and watching the dogs dance along. When I came home today, they all pranced and spun and I pranced right along with them. We even woke up Archie! Last night I caught Freya playing with Sherman, all alpha-dignity tossed to the winds for a game of tag. When Cj arrives tonight, we'll all conga down the hall to welcome her back.
Nobody, human, dog, cat, other, is immortal. We're all dying; it's just a matter of when, not if. This really isn't a bad thing, though it can be painful. What would we accomplish with ourselves, if we knew we had forever? What urgency would there be to love, to laugh, to appreciate, if no one ever went away? Without nature clearing out the old and worn out, there'd be no babies, no kittens, no puppies.
"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." - Chuck Palahniuk
"Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live." - Henry Van Dyke
So, anyway. This convoluted train of thought led me to the conclusion that the worst way to deal with life's limitations is to get a big, honkin' spotlight and aim it at them. If your pet has a medical problem, find out all you can, but if you don't have a diagnosis, quit reading about possible problems. Don't sit there, wringing your hands, mopping the occasional tear and taking Muffy's pulse all day, especially when Muffy has her ball in her mouth and just wants you to play. Get a copy of the Merck Veterinary Manual, a fine book with a ton of animal pathologies included. Thumb through it, tell yourself, out loud, "My dog could die of a whole bunch of stuff in here." Now, toss the damn thing in the back of the deepest closet you have, leave it there, and take the dog out for a small pineapple sundae and a romp in the park. Let it go. Enjoy the now that you do have with your pet and leave the maybes and whatifs and wouldas for when they come.
Most rescues have a hospice dog or six around somewhere, dogs too old or too sick to be readily offered for adoption (though if someone falls in love with one, an adoption would certainly be done, happily.) George was one, because of his heart condition and stroke. Nobody I know who cares for these marvelous dogs thinks of them as "dying." Their stories are told, they have fun with their humans and their toys and their treats, and as long as they enjoy life, their human caregivers enjoy it with them.
"Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough." - William Saroyan
Go. Have some fun. Spit in the Reaper's eye.