November 21, 2011

Two Kinds of People

There are two kinds of people in this world. You know, like toilet paper people - unders and overs; belly buttons, in'y and out'y; people who put bumper stickers on their cars and people with good taste; people who spit on the street and people with class.
And then there are pet people - those who will spend their child's inheritance to treat their pet's illness and others who will have them put to sleep to end their misery. On my morning run I've been seeing this guy with his dog, a terrier of some sort, who can't walk, so the guy bends over and holds the dog by the belly, moving him along, hoping, I suppose, that he'll move his little legs. He won't.
I stopped to talk to him one day and asked what was wrong and he said the dog just didn't want to walk any more. He had taken him to the vet and the vet said he needed to get some exercise so this was the exercise.
I saw him a couple more times doing the same thing and then I saw him carrying the dog. The dog, Popcorn, didn't want to walk. But the guy was hopeful. He'd just had him back to the vet; they ran some tests, did acupuncture, so he thought that would help. Popcorn's 15 years old.
Now, looks are definitely deceiving but this guy doesn't look like someone with money to burn. Popcorn's old and clearly tired. He looks so sad.
So I guess the question is, when do you let go?
Some years ago the same sort of thing happened to a friend's dog and she spent thousands looking for a miracle cure, buying leg braces, physical therapy, then carting the dog around in a little red wagon. When I suggested the dog was telling her he was ready to go she said, "If he was a person would you just let him die?"
My answer is yes. If only it were that easy and humane. If only we had the same option with people.
When my father was sick, almost 90 and in a nursing home, he told me he was ready to die. If I could have helped him along I would have. If I could have saved him the indignity of being cared for by strangers, wearing diapers, being fed, I would have.
I believe animals let us know when they're ready to die, and all we have to do is listen. It doesn't mean we love our pets any less if we let them go.

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