Friday, March 24, 2006
An Epiphany, of Sorts
I am touched. I really am. My email box and comments sections filled with words from people who understand when I posted about our loss of Scout. Your collective words truly moved me. Some of you reached into your own memories and accessed the hurt of your own losses to share in ours. It would have been easier not to do so, I know. But, I am glad you did. And to those of you who truly understand the value of not reducing an experience to an anecdote, I am grateful.

Our dogs are central to our lifestyle. We’ve lost as many as we’ve loved and, each time, it both challenges our faith in the gods’/goddesses’/Universe’s plan and inspires us to commit even more fully to having some part in caring for the critters and creatures of this earth. It may seem like a small thing, but it is meaningful to us. Kant says the meaning of life is being a part of something larger than yourself. He also says most people find their meaning within family. Since this is a loaded proposition for two adopted people, devoting ourselves to our critters works for us, however unconventional. I used to feel we were totally alone in this endeavor. But, since Scout’s diagnoses of hermangial sarcoma (cancer) eleven weeks ago, I have learned differently. I learned a lot about dogs. I learned a lot about cancer and its treatments. I also learned a lot about people.

I learned all it takes to screen a good veterinarian from a bad one is what happens when he enters the exam room. If he sits on the floor with you and your dog, petting, scratching and cuddling your furry friend while talking to you, you are in the right place. My thanks to Dr. Ulbright, Dr. Bryan and Dr. Buss for doing just that.

I learned not to judge a book by its cover, or more specifically a pet supply store by the elite neighborhood it sits within. I went there in need of an immune boosting food for Scout, dragging my feet and expecting expense and snobbery. Instead, I met Pat, the owner, who herself has ten dogs and took to Scout’s plight like she was one of her own. She repeatedly went above and beyond her job description to aide in Scout’s recovery. She brought in supplies for Scout on her day off and we never left the store without a jar of cream, an extra bag of food or just a whole lot of empathy – free of charge.

I learned there are others like us. I sat on vigil at the University of Missouri Animal Hospital, sometimes for days at a time, sharing a waiting room with people doing the same. There, I saw a family offer their home to another family, knowing nothing about them other than that they love their dog. I met an elderly couple who just wanted one more month with the last pet they will ever own. I met a breeder who couldn’t bear the idea of euthanizing a litter of puppies born with cleft lips, so brought them all in for surgery, knowing her breeder peers would call her crazy for doing so – and not caring at all.

And, one day, I spent twelve hours with the family of a 180 pound, limping, mastiff. As each of us received updates on the testing of our dogs, we laughed together, cursed the gods together and cried together. And we shared a hug of joy at the end of the day when we were both able to bring our dogs home with enough good news to carry us through the next few weeks. I never even knew their names, but I think of them often.

For a thousand reasons, I am often guilty of underestimating other human beings. The past three months have challenged many of my stubborn suppositions and offered a kind of therapy. While I can’t parlay that feeling into giving Scout’s loss meaning, I do hope to hang on to it.
Rhonda Ruminated at 10:24 AM | Permalink |

4 Ruminations:

  • At 1:27 PM, Anonymous Atilla The Mom

    It's a damn shame our furkids don't have the same lifespan as humans, isn't it?

  • At 2:14 PM, Anonymous Rhonda

    Atilla: Yep. If there is a "grand design," I think the furkid/human lifespan is its biggest flaw. I've filed several official complains.

  • At 11:59 AM, Anonymous St Jude

    Rhonda, I'm so sorry to hear about Scout. I know what you mean about the lifespan thing, my two girls aren't really girls any more they are getting quite elderly. So I cherish every day I have with them, and tonight I'll give them an extra special cuddle before bed. I'm sorry I haven't been around.

  • At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Rhonda

    Jude: thanks for the thoughts -- and I'm glad you've resurfaced. I was worried you'd gotten lost in a pile of moving boxes.