I watched our dog die the other day.


Actually I’ve watched all of our dogs die except two. The only two we didn’t watch die were Little One and Chitka. Little One because she was no longer in our care. It was a long time ago and we had to give her up because where we were moving to wouldn’t have her. With Chitka, neither Carolyn nor I had could go in when he was euthanized. Too painful. All the others, Cedric, Oren, Max and recently, Wilco, all died at the hands of a vet with us present. They were all old and ready to go but that never makes it any easier. None of them did us the favour or dying in their sleep at home.

On August 3rd of this year, we took Wilco to the vet for one last time but not before we took him down to the beach in Royston and for a little drive around town. I still think about him every day, remembering his goofiness. He loved the Royston beach and used to chase his ball there for as long as we’d throw it for him. He  and his ball were inseparable for the first seven years we had him.

 

After that, he lost interest, we suspect because he was in a lot of pain and it just wasn’t fun anymore. He even stopped chasing cats and rabbits about 18 months ago.

He was probably sixteen years old and couldn’t walk anymore. I had to carry him into the car and lift him out. The vet staff took him into the clinic. Our vet, Carol Champion checked him out and agreed with our decision to have him put down. A few minutes later, as he lay in his usual position on the floor she gave him a sedative. When she was certain he was sedated she injected him with what I think was pentobarbital. It took less than a minute and I noticed he wasn’t breathing anymore. I stroked his back a few times and gave him a pat on the head but he was gone. Carolyn and I were very upset but the staff at the clinic was super and so supportive. I find it very hard not to cry on these occasions so I just let it happen. I miss him a lot.

Having Wilco with us for 10 years or so, watching him with his ball, stalking the fish in the aquarium and chasing bears on the logging roads and on camping trips makes it hard to let him go. He was family.

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again. If I’m in a lot of pain and immobile and as old as Wilco (relatively speaking) I’d be quite happy to die like he did, surrounded by caring people not willing to watch him suffer anymore.

After he was euthanized, he was taken to a pet crematorium somewhere north of Courtenay located on a working farm where he joined a number of other pets to be cremated together and have their ashes spread out on the fields.

Not all animals have the idyllic life Wilco lived, nor the peaceful, loving death. Of course every living thing is on a death trajectory. That’s no surprise. Essentially, living and dying are the same process. That’s one of the main reason we are so conflicted as a species around life and death. We fear life because we know it will bring us death. Our culture, our politics, our everything are aimed at eliminating threats, imagined or real,  to our ‘lives’. We insist that our deaths must be meaningful or we deny death altogether.

I’ll get into a long diatribe into the essence of life and death later, in another series of blog posts although you’ll find the archives in this blog full of references to death denial. Suffice it to say for now that life must consume life. Up to this time, life on this planet has been the mutual devouring of species. Can that change? Should we be more ‘humane’ in how we raise and kill other species for our own consumption? Does it matter how long a calf lives before it’s slaughtered for us? Does it matter how much pain and suffering we inflict on other species in the name of scientific research or simply to grace our dinner plates? Is life really just suffering? For now, I’ll just leave you with these questions. I may offer up answers, at least tentative ones, to these questions in future posts. Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “I watched our dog die the other day.

  1. Sorry for your loss Roger.
    I have been involved in 2 separate euthanasia incidents, very up close and personal, neither with an animal “of my own” or that I have bonded with. When you see it from an outsiders perspective, the questions raised are many.

    I would love to hear your expert thoughts on our human need/desire to bond with animals, to domesticate them for personal reasons, that is pets. I think I understand raising them for food, or training them to serve. It is the personal bonding that I don’t get. Kinda creepy when you really think about and see somebody snuggling up to, and kissing a hairy dog face.

    Bye for now.

    T

    1. Thanks, Tom. I’m not entirely clear on the psychology of ‘pet bonding’, but historically, pets were not kept unless they were useful. Cats were revered in ancient Egypt mostly because of their hunting skills although that’s not how the Egyptians portrayed cats. They thought of them in metaphorical terms. Dogs were raised to work for most of history and the various breeds served different purposes. Now, people have pets for entirely different reasons and the pet food industry is quite happy about that. I’ll do some research, but I suspect that pets are often surrogates. They have just enough ‘human’ characteristics to serve as much needed companions for some people who otherwise would have no companionship. Dogs, especially, are easy to anthropomorphize. People are now dressing up their dogs more than ever. Our dog, Wilco, was a great ratter. He hated rats with a passion and took obvious pleasure in killing them. Our daughter, Arianne, got him in France while she was there on a post-doc at the University of Montpellier, not because of his vermin killing skills, but for companionship. I’ll write more about this later.

  2. OK, I’ll stop weeping now… As he moves on pain free into whatever death is the grief lives on. My condolences and my profound thanks for sharing this so beautifully.

    Jack (250) 792-4670 On Nov 13, 2018 8:44 AM, “Roger Albert – Always a Sociologist” wrote:

    > Roger JG Albert posted: “Actually I’ve watched all of our dogs die except > two. The only two we didn’t watch die were Little One and Chitka. Little > One because she was no longer in our care. It was a long time ago and we > had to give her up because where we were moving to wouldn’t ” >

    1. Thank you, Jack. I really appreciate your sentiments. I still think about Wilco every day. He was a buddy although I could have strangled him at times. That’s true of most dogs we’ve had. Wilco was the escape artist extraordinaire. No fence could keep him contained for long. Loved him dearly but he caused us no end of grief at times.

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