Friday, 16 August 2019


My little Shih-Tzu Maple is over fourteen years old now. He is mostly blind and almost entirely deaf. He's lost most of his teeth. He has arthritis in his back and walks a bit drunkenly. His lovely autumn-leaf colouring is going gray. He no longer jumps onto the couch or goes for long walks or takes any interest in toys. And over the past while he has had a series of small strokes, which lay him flat for a bit but don't appear to have any lasting effects. The vet has agreed that this fall it would be a mercy to put him down, before the cold increases his pain.

I know all this. I remind myself of this. And yet, there are still times when he's peppy and laughs with his mouth open and his tongue hanging out. He wags his tail when he realizes I'm near. He tries to scamper, though he can only go a couple of feet. There are times he finds a sunny spot on the grass and just rolls and squirms on his back, then collapses into a relaxed heap, reveling in the heat. I see him stand with his stubby nose pointed into the wind, feeling the breeze and picking up scents. He'll stand like that for an hour. He's happy. In spite of limitations, in spite of difficulty eating, in spite of bashing his face into fence posts and walls, he's content.

Dogs are so Zen. They don't waste time fretting that reality is not what they want it to be. They don't rail against fate or complain when things change. He's rolling with whatever comes his way and, against all odds, seems to find joy in his life. How can I put him down while he's still able to feel joy?

Then again, he has been a faithful, good dog and companion to my kids for many years. He's sweet-tempered and peaceful. How can I prolong his pain? Surely he doesn't deserve that. If his nature is to feel joy right up until the last breath, it's not as if I can wait until the joy stops before ending his life.

It's such a conundrum, trying to play God. I can see his physical limitations but I can also see his heart. I wish he could tell me what to do.

Of course, he is telling me what to do. Be at peace with what comes. Adapt. Love. Stretch out in the sun. Be joyful.