Another short story about a beloved pet
|Spanky and The Burning Bush
I should preface this by saying that I am not particularly religious – at least not in the sense of actively participating in an organized religion. I consider myself spiritual. I believe in God, or at least in a higher power which we routinely define as God. I pray every day.
My problem with traditional organized religion is based on the “us vs. them” mentality that seems to pervade so many different religions. I’m guessing that anyone’s God that teaches tolerance, understanding and love would take umbrage at the exclusionary nature of traditional dogmas – not to mention the bloodshed that has followed traditional religion since it began.
But, I’m not here to preach, nor am I here to promote one belief system over another.
I’m here to tell you a true story.
Spanky had been with us for almost 14 years. He was a great dog. I may be prejudiced in this opinion, but he may have been the best dog of all time.
As he got older and slowed down a bit, the worries about the end of our beloved dog’s life gradually began to surface more often. No one wants to see a loved one die, and pet lovers pets truly are part of the family – their illnesses and eventual deaths are not very different than the illnesses and deaths of human family members.
Believe me, I’m not comparing the loss of a pet with the loss of a human loved one to denigrate the human, I am making the comparison to illustrate the level of worry and eventual grief that every animal lover feels with the loss of a pet. If you don’t love pets, you just don’t get it, but that person probably isn’t reading this anyway.
Late in his 13th year, Spanky was diagnosed with cancer. There were no real outward symptoms, but the vet was able to make his judgment based on some blood tests and x-rays. The prognosis wasn’t good.
At his age, surgery was very risky, and even with a successful result, the prospect of a lengthy recovery that would include a long course of chemotherapy made this option untenable. Even with a perfect outcome, the vet believed that he had less than a year left, anyway.
Spanky had been very healthy and active his whole life, and the idea of filling his last months with surgery and pain didn’t make sense. If he were younger, and the option offered would have given him more years, then that choice would have been obvious, too.
The vet assured us that Spanky wasn’t in any real pain beyond an arthritic hip condition that we had been managing with over-the-counter pain remedies for several years. He suggested that our best option would be to treat him with steroids to reduce the inflammation and to help manage any pain that he had.
If he got worse, we’d have other decisions to make.
So, we took Option B. The vet gave him a cortisone injection and gave us a prescription for oral steroids. We took Spanky home.
The steroids seemed to work miracles, literally melting years away from our old dog. He ran around like a puppy, chasing rabbits, squirrels, and even playing a little Frisbee. He hadn’t done that for a couple of years because of his hips.
Deb even made him a special order of Chocolate Chip Cookies. They were his absolute favorite human food. Whenever she made them, he would follow her around the kitchen anxiously waiting for his first warm cookie from the batch. Of course, now we know that chocolate isn’t good for dogs, but they never hurt him.
But we knew that we were only buying time.
That’s all any of us do anyway. We buy time.
Knowing this, I added some new requests to my prayers.
I prayed that Spanky would not suffer.
I prayed that we wouldn’t have to take him to the vet to be put down. We knew that we couldn’t take that.
And, I prayed that we would get a sign that old dogs have a place in Heaven, too. Well, dogs and every other cherished pet.
On Easter Sunday morning, Spanky took a dramatic turn for the worse. Out of nowhere, he was not doing well at all. Because it was Easter, we went to Mom and Dad’s for lunch. I think that we knew that the end was very near, and our typical holiday cheer was significantly dampened.
It was an overcast day, matching our moods perfectly. We ate lunch quickly and rushed home.
When we got home, our worst fears were realized. Spanky had passed away while we were gone. But, there he was, peacefully “asleep” in the only ray of sunshine in the house. In fact, in the only ray of sunshine we had seen since morning..
Other than the occasional image of The Virgin Mary in a piece of burnt toast, or on the side of an old barn in the middle of nowhere, there aren’t too many “burning bush” stories in this day and age.
This is ours.
He didn’t suffer at all.
We didn’t have to take him on his last car ride to be put to sleep.
And, on Easter Sunday, we found him in the only ray of sunshine in the house.
His ashes are in a drawer under our bed, and every once in a while I take it out and shed a couple of tears.
I probably shouldn’t cry, because I’m sure that we’ll be with all of our loved ones again someday. Dogs, cats, turtles, birds, hamsters – all of them!
Oh yeah, people, too!