Pansy is being put to death tomorrow. Pansy is our neighbor’s dog. She is 13 and has been ill for months, maybe years. She’s been having seizures since she was three. But she is loved and her “mother” made a point of telling me that Pansy was being put down tomorrow Pansy is the closest thing the couple next door have to a child.
Thinking about Pansy has made me reflect on all the animals that have been in my life. The first I recall is “Zero.” He was a small bulldog with a white ring around one eye. My dad, who was quite crafty, made a wooden dog that looks just like Zero, which now guards my front door. I was a young child during Zero’s years and don’t recall what happened to him. I do remember that my cat (name not remembered) hung itself (can’t even recall the sex of this pet, but I frequently dressed it in doll clothes and took it for a walk in a doll buggy) on a neighbor’s broken window. The neighbor was watching the cat for me while I was away. She buried the cat before I returned.
When I was a freshman in high school my mother was given a rat terrier we named “Mo” for the aircraft carrier Missouri. I was in college when he died and knew only that my dad buried the dog in the back yard. I don’t remember agonizing over his death. He was mom’s dog, not mine.
Within months after we were married my husband Rock and I acquired two Siamese cats. They were the best. Chased each other all night from one end of the apartment to the other. It was a “shotgun” apartment, doors between rooms were all in line and the back end included our bed. During most nights they started out under the covers, sparring then chasing, then up and over the bed to the front of the apartment then back again and up and over the bed, etc.. It was fun at first, but sleep was hard to come by once their game started. Because we were moving they ended up on a farm, happily, we hoped, and still do.
Our next pet was a cat Rock found in an alley in Newark, New Jersey, where he was working. He brought her home and gave her a bath and the cat, Susie, never forgave him. When at the end of her life her bladder control gave out she always seemed to seek out his foot before she let loose.
Our children were small but growing into preteens when we acquired a dog, “Miss Liberty” whom we called Libby and a cat, “Uncle Sam,” whom we called Sam or Sammie. It was Bicentennial time and we were very patriotic These two pets grew old with us, well past the age when most pets are gone. Eventually both were affected by the chemicals we spread on our lawn and it was up to me to put them down, as I had done with Susie.
Susie was easy. The day I took her to the vet’s I arrived in the parking lot and cried for a moment, reached for a tissue and felt something wet. She had let loose into my jacket pocket Well, I hustled her into the place and never looked back.
Libby and Sammie were loved by all of us… husband, three children and me. The children grew up with them. I was the only one home on the day the earlier decision had been made regarding each animal’s final day. I had the duty. Sad times, indeed.
There comes a a time when a life is finished. With animals we love it is when we know that the quality of life is over and only pain remains. A doctor somewhere in the west went to prison because he offered the same “put down” service to humans.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. Depends on the circumstances, I suspect. For example, I know I don’t want to be kept alive in a vegetative state with tubes and such. I would hope that someone would love me enough to have me put down, if only by turning off the machines.
I will reflect on all this again tomorrow when my neighbors come back from the vet’s without their beloved Pansy.