When the singer's gone, let the song go on.
It's a fine line between the darkness and the dawn.
They say in the darkest night, there's a light beyond.
But the ending always comes at last.
Endings always come too fast.
They come too fast, but they pass too slow
I love you and that's all I know. - Art Garfunkel
A friend of mine said farewell to her beloved dog last week. Rawley had a sarcoma. He survived the surgery, but went into respiratory distress two days later. It's thought that he threw a blood clot. He was getting the very best of care and his family was there to make sure his departure was peaceful.
I cried when I heard the news. I know that makes little sense to many people. He was not my dog and I never met him. He was my friend's beloved boy and because I understood her grief, I developed what I call empathy grief from thousands of miles away. What I felt and still feel pales in comparison to the heartache I know she is enduring, but between myself and others, there is this sense of community loss for a single dog. I think that for those of us who have shared incredible bonds with our companion animals, the loss felt by another person just takes us back to our own losses. We relive that feeling of helplessness as we try to do or say something, anything that might help.
To my friend, I truly am so very sorry for your loss. To Rawley, I am so very sorry you could not stay. I am sure you had a wonderful life here and I just wish it could have been longer.
I spent a lot of time just staring at my own dog in the wake of Rawley's passing. Our dog had a stroke in early September and it's a miracle that he's still with us. His days are surely numbered and I really do my best each and every day to be thankful for the blessing of his presence in our lives. A day will come when we too have to say farewell and there will be nothing we can do to keep him here. And I know my friends will feel that empathy grief for his passing.
When I think of the complete anguish over losing a beloved pet that I have felt and which I know is felt by people like my friend, it brings home to me the tragedy that is loss of life in our nation's animal “shelters.” Thinking back, pretty much every animal I've ever loved and lost would have been destroyed in a traditional animal shelter and while it is tragic that their lives are so short even with the best of health, the true tragedy would have been if their lives had been ended for no reason at all.
Each and every day perfectly healthy and treatable animals are destroyed in shelters using our tax dollars for no other reasons than they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and we have failed to end the outdated practice of killing them. We like to think that ours is a great country in terms of our lifestyle and our values. I think we can never really consider ourselves a great country until we stop being hypocrites. We cannot possibly say that we are animal friendly as a nation while we continue to spend countless tax dollars each year destroying the very creatures we say we love. It just doesn't make any sense.
Rawley mattered. Rawley was much beloved. And he is much missed not only by his own family but by people like me who never met him. Each and every shelter dog in America deserves the same. They matter. They too could be much beloved and much missed when the time comes when they can no longer stay here. But that time should come as the result of old age or incurable disease and not at our hands. Only when we end the public shame which is our sheltering system will we be able to call ours a truly animal friendly nation.
That's all I know.
I am an animal welfare advocate. My goal is to help people understand some basic issues related to companion animals in America. Awareness leads to education leads to action leads to change.
image courtesy of Terrah Johnson