A Life Well-Lived, in Perspective

Recently, we faced the reality of the tenuous and temporary nature of life. Ralph, our daughter’s fifteen-year-old Yorkie, began acting strange. Shaking and lethargic, we faced the real possibility that his time was drawing to an end and a decision would need be made.

As we all gathered around, each taking turns holding him and trying to hold back tears, the memories of his life with us came pouring out. He’s been part of our life since my daughter was in high school, soon she is to be a mother. Ralph is part of the very texture of our life. No one wanted to let him go, but we also knew no one wanted him to live his last moments in agony. Strange how we see the kindness and necessity of this with dogs but not people.

While he didn’t seem to be in pain, it was obvious he couldn’t walk well and began to shiver despite the blankets wrapped around him. We decided to see how the night went and reassess things in the morning.

It was not a restful night as more and more memories swirled up out of the past and played in my mind.

I am an early riser, as is my daughter. By 6:30 or so I could no longer wait so I sent a message. What I heard back was what I had dreaded all night, Ralphie was no better and they were taking him to the hospital. This was the same hospital where my daughter and son-in-law had taken Max when he suffered an unexpected medical emergency.

Max never came home.

When Max, Ralph’s companion Yorkie with whom he shared a love/hate relationship depending on the mood of the day, died,  I wrote how his death impacted us. https://joebroadmeadowblog.com/2018/01/07/just-a-dog/

When I read my daughter’s message, I asked them to stop by before they went to the hospital for one last goodbye. But they had already left and she didn’t see the message.  So I woke my wife and we waited in silence for them to let us know what was happening.

Then, we got the call, and the emotions engulfed me.

Turned out it was a muscle bruise that was the cause of his problem and with the help of some IV meds and a prescription for anti-inflammatories, he’d be fine. HIs days of two mile walks were over, but his days were not.

Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.

Mark Twain, in a letter to the editor after a newspaper inadvertently published his obituary

Now I know someday the result of that call will be different, but that is not today. Yet it also occurred to me that now is the time to write about what dogs like Ralph mean to us. How they become family members in full standing and with all the rights and privileges thereof. Talk of these things now while they are still among us.

In Max’s case, we were away and never got to say goodbye but I now know it doesn’t matter because of all the times I got to say hello to him and Ralph as they romped through our lives. Those are the moments that matter and those are the moments we need embrace.

Hellos always outshine goodbyes.

Statistically speaking, Ralph may not have 10 years left but then again neither may I.  When it appeared his time had come, the feeling of sadness was overwhelming.  It occurred to me I liked him better than most people.

A lot better.

Now I have a different perspective on the course of life with dogs.

When the time comes, there will be no reason to say goodbye because I will have embraced every one of these remaining moments of hello. That’s the thing about dogs, every day they are with you are good days except the last one.

You can’t say that about people.

When a dog like Ralph or Max pass on, it is always sad. When some people do the same, it is a relief. It’s why dogs are so endearing to us and why I will make sure I enjoy each of those remaining moments with Ralph and all the others I hold dear.

This could never happen with a cat.

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