REGGAE. What a totally preposterous name for a dog, but my eight-year-old son was just learning to play guitar and breathed all things Bob Marley, Jamaican, and Rastafarian. When I vetoed the idea of him naming this new puppy Bob (which would cause mucho confusion at family events, with several of his uncles and cousins bearing the name. A shriek of “Stop peeing on the floor Bob!”, would garner all the wrong kind of attention). Marley was rejected also; no need to be reminded of a sad canine film forty times a day. Both Jamaica and Rastafarian had too many syllables, which left Reggae as the only viable name.
Several months ago, at the ripe old age of 13, Reggae began doing something quite disconcerting. She would sit beside me and stare at me for hours at a stretch, like she was trying to memorize every detail of my being on a cellular level. There was such sorrow in her eyes, which really freaked me out and I became convinced that she must be imbued with a secret knowledge that one of us was not long for this world. Since neither of us were spring chickens, I figured there was a 50/50 chance it could be either/or.
When she began needing to go outside a dozen times a day and her back legs could no longer be trusted to keep her upright, her vet warned me to prepare myself to say goodbye, probably no later than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Mr. Adorable and I immediately chucked her diet plan out the window and began spoiling her with every possible treat and tidbit. Want to sniff the same blade of grass for 27 minutes? No problem whatsoever. Want to head to your favorite beach and laze under the huge live oak tree for hours? No problem, my sweet baby girl.
Then suddenly, in a matter of hours, her condition worsened so swiftly and she was in so much distress, I knew her Rainbow Bridge moment had arrived. I’d been fortunate over the years and never had to witness a pet exiting planet earth. On the ranch, there was always a dad, uncle, or grandpa around to administer the merciful gunshot to alleviate their suffering after a snake bite or run in with a vehicle. Then, it became my husband’s sad task to make that final trip to the vet’s office; I knew I couldn’t bear it.
But there was no testosterone in sight on Reggae’s awful final day, so off we went, on my girl’s final “bye bye in the car”. I was crying so hard I have no idea how we navigated the highway in one piece. I had a completely different vision of what was going to occur, one that had no connection to the actual reality. I brought her favorite New Age music on my IPad to play for her because it always made her dreamy and relaxed. My pockets were stuffed with every treat we possessed and I was armed with her favorite lovey. All utterly pointless, as it turned out.
The vet gave her a sedative and within seconds she was deeply asleep, rendering all my preparations moot. Once he administered her Heaven Juice, her heart stopped in under 15 seconds. It all seemed so brutally swift and such an ignoble ending to our long love affair. No pomp, no circumstance, no ceremony, no goodbye rituals.
I’m stunned by the number of tears I’ve shed and the cringing that happens when I enter this empty apartment and realize that goofy face full of constant joy isn’t there to greet me. The silence inside my home is screamingly loud. I’ve decided that this will be my last pet; too much pain comes from loving something so much and I won’t risk that again. I’m sure I made Mr. Adorable nervous when he caught me checking out inhabitants of the local shelter on their website, searching their faces for something intangible. Something that would catch at my heart and make me look closer to see if maybe, just maybe…
It seems incomprehensible that, with the glaring exceptions of Oregon, Washington, Vermont, Montana, and New Mexico, our pets are treated with more compassion than we citizens are. No loving pet owner would allow their precious baby to suffer in agony for months because vets weren’t allowed to perform euthanasia. As humans, if we want the same compassion and swift end to our suffering from a horrible terminal illness, we would have to relocate to one of these five states in order to execute what should be an extremely personal choice. Imagine being violently ill and having to leave behind your family, friends, home, and community to live in a strange and unfamiliar place in order that you might write your own final ending to this adventure called Life. Where is the humanity in that?
Someone suggested to me last week that hospice was almost as good an option as assisted suicide but I disagree. I know my mom, who opted to stop dialysis for her acute renal failure, would certainly disagree. She was told she would have a maximum of 72 hours to live after stopping her treatment and all the sweetie wanted was to get out of the hospital and die in her bed, her home. The allotted 72 hours turned into three weeks and while her hospice care was at a rock-star level, she would have jumped at the chance to NOT have a nurse or companion change her diapers or help her shower and dress when I was at work. Sadly, in North Carolina, you are not allowed the option of speeding up the inevitable.
When I am elected President of The World, which I expect any minute now, my first executive order will be to stock every soda vending machine with Kevork Kola. Drinking one will be your own personal “Stop the world; I want to get off” beverage. I think that instead of spending time in prison Jack Kevorkian should have been canonized. He should receive every possible humanitarian award posthumously.
So, Governor Jerry Brown, what do you say to signing the Brittany Maynard bill by the October 11 deadline and affording the residents of your state the same dignity and compassion we show our pets?