Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On Euthanasia and Going Gentle into that Good Night

Toby,  Age 2
We took our Shih-Tzu, Toby, to the vet's today, to be euthanized.   It was a hard thing to do, and my wife remarked afterwards, "if it's this hard for us to put a pet down, what must those wives/husbands/children feel when their spouse or parent is euthanized?"

And our answer was, probably nothing, or they couldn't do it.

Toby went peacefully.   He was 17 years old (dog years=119 human?) and had been undergoing progressive deteroriation.   He was scrawny, resembling those emaciated prisoners in the concentration camps, ribs, back vertebrae outstanding.   The last few weeks he had trouble standing, and he had been incontinent for about six weeks--we had used baby diapers (#1) and a wrap to minimize cleaning up.    One of our other dogs, a very sensitive and intelligent terrier mix (he looks like a teacup Scottish deerhound) was very upset by all this.   He would avoid going into the room where Toby slept, and when in the room would go over to Toby, smell and nuzzle him.

The last several days had been particularly bad;  there were periods when he would be continually uttering a high, piercing cry, unlike any bark or whimper he had voiced before.    We would rearrange him on his bed, help him to stand, offer him water or food, which would seem to give him a little peace.   Finally, the last few days he was eating very little, not able to stand or walk at all, so we decided it was time.

The question I have, why is it permissible to euthanize a pet, but not a human being?   And the answer is:  humans have a special soul, an intellective soul, to use a scholastic term.   We can know of our own death; we can know of a God. .We are created special.   C.S. Lewis has written a last chapter in his book "On the Problem of Pain" that deals with this question.   His answer, which I like very much, is that, as in the Garden of Eden, man is meant to be head of the kingdom and as such, in heaven, will be with the animals who have been his companions in life.

Finally, I'd like to link to an earlier post: Memento Mori--Thoughts on Growing Old,  in which I wrote about growing old with my Shih-Tzu.

Goodbye, Toby;  may we be with you in heaven.

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