The Death of a Dog
I'm grappling to find meaning in the sudden death of my three-year-old dog
The symptoms that afflicted my dog also prevented any medications from working. He was not able to hold down food so he was “fed” intravenously. He would regurgitate everything, meds included, and this went on for eight days. The “barf” would contaminate and re-contaminate his lungs. He developed pneumonia, which kept getting worse, which reduced his ability to breathe. I chose to euthanize him, rather than prolong the ongoing and apparently hopeless continuation of his suffering in the hope that, young as he was, he’d somehow pull through.
The dog’s name was Reacher, after the fictional character Jack. For a Brittany, he was big and bold.
I remember thinking when he was a pup: this dog won’t survive a year! He was simply too full of life and verve. He would be sitting next to me in the four-wheeler one second, then plummeting out to investigate something, maybe a smell. But the four-wheeler was tooling along at 20 mph. So the dog would tumble and bounce for forty feet. From then on he rode on the floor which helped, but I still wondered how my willful dog would survive?
Like most dogs, Reacher wasn’t hung up on dignity. My wife Anne is a beautiful singer, and when she’d do a rendition of that classic folk song, Shenandoah, Reacher would cut loose almost immediately with his own rendition. And lo and behold, when yours truly would attempt the same, Reacher also joined in enthusiastically! My voice is particularly “flat”, but I make up for it in volume. Didn’t matter to Reacher! He’d wake up the neighboring expansive cattle ranch as he joined in!
Speaking of dignity, Reacher had this perfect body, muscled to smooth perfection, and like a cat, his balance was striking. He’d come fishing with me in the canoe, and literally hop from the bottom of the canoe to the top of the prow, the gunwale, and sit there perfectly balanced like the prow of the good ship Pinafore. He posed a striking figure doing that until he fell off!
Reacher was a lover. He’d effortlessly bounce up onto our sofa and nestle into my lap, or Anne’s. Especially so if he was wet from a recent swim!
The disease Reacher contracted is sometimes associated with dirt. Why would this be? Are we talking about farm ground contaminated with past chemical insults? Think of the chemicals that farmers commonly employ as they struggle to grow disease-free sugar beets, for example. When I purchased our property twenty years ago (a former sugar beet farm), there were signs along both sides of the road that read, “Danger, do not enter this treated field”. Well, willful Reacher would chew a retrieval dummy in the unplanted dirt alongside our back porch. Not much doubt he ingested some of that dirt in the process.
Or, being an avid swimmer, maybe he lapped up toxins associated with harmful algae blooms (HABs). What with our on-off testing of new oxygenation technologies, the late summer months saw a bloom unlike any we’ve seen in the last fifteen years. The symptoms of dysautonomia and toxic algae blooms have many similarities.
As I think about the last eight days, I’m trying to make sense of the big picture, otherwise my anger is flat-out overwhelming! The egocentric actions of individuals like Vladimir Putin, and his public admirer, Donald Trump, are resulting in billions, maybe trillions, of dollars squandered that could be spent on advancing science, combating climate change, and finding cures for disease!
The life of a dog runs parallel with the hope of humanity. We are all in this together.
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