God’s greatest gift to dogkind is that God withheld concern for the future beyond the next immediate experience–like suppertime, for example. It doesn’t say so in Genesis, but I think one of the great curses leveled on humankind is that we are aware there a future and we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the future and doing things to try to control or change something we cannot really change or control. That dread of the future drives all of us humans bonkers. By contrast dogs are unburdened by such knowledge.
I’ve written about our little dog Henry multiple times over the years and my social media accounts and this blog are littered with pictures and stories about him Quite frankly, he could care less. What he would have you know about him is that above all else he adores and is adored my husband Ben. When we were dating Ben counseled me against adopting Henry. Ben told me that a Jack Russell Terrier was about the worst dog there was to own. Me being–well, me, I ignored his advice. The day Ben and Henry met, Henry jumped in his lap and stayed there for the rest of his life. I had to marry Ben because I didn’t think Henry could have tolerated a life without Ben, and I certainly didn’t want to give up my crazy, obstinate bundle of brown and white fur. Ben and Henry have been inseparable. Ben is the Boy Loved and Trusted Beyond All Measure.
Of course I also adore this little dog. He was a total pain in the ass some days, but he had a merry soul and a good heart. He flunked his obedience classes and could never be trusted off a leash, but he charmed everyone who encountered him. Any transgressions he committed (and there were MANY over the years) were forgiven. It was impossible to hold a grudge against Henry.
Henry was a stray. At his first check-up my vet pronounced him to be “three-ish to five-ish.” From then on his age was expressed as an “ish-number.” For the past couple years when people asked, we’d tell them Henry is “seventeen-ish.” He looked and acted ageless. Just last month we took him on a hike to the lake, and he walked the two miles all by himself. Still, he’d developed breathing problems and had become increasingly shaky in the past few months. Our vet tried to find medications to help him. Then Henry started getting lost. He’d forget where he was and would spend hours pacing in a circle. He’d start digging in the carpet or on a dog bed and we’d have to tell him to stop, or he’d dig until his nails bled. His breathing worsened, leading to scary coughing fits. Ben spent nights holding him or lying on the floor with his little dog, trying to comfort him as dementia creeped over his little soul.
So, back to God’s greatest gift to dogkind. After an agonizing discussion, Ben and I came to the decision that it was time to release Henry. We would have kept him a prisoner of our love for a while longer, but we humans hang onto anticipation of the future in hopes that we can influence outcomes or defer pain and sorrow. As I write this, Henry is lying quietly in his dog bed. He’s exhausted because he had a terrible coughing fit a few moments ago. Rather than worrying about the future he took a nap. It’s so painful to see and hear him suffer while we fight our selfish wishes to keep him for a few more hours or a few more days. For Henry, there is no dread. He just knows he doesn’t feel so great. His last experience of the world is being gently wrapped in the arms of the Boy Loved and Trusted Beyond All Measure as he drifts off to sleep.