I reflect on an experience I had a couple of weeks ago which started many years before.
I was recently put into a situation where I had to discuss the difficult decision of whether a dog should be give cancer treatment to prolong its life by approximately a year at most. It is easy to say there is no right or wrong but these situations make me feel quite strongly about who we are trying to be right or wrong for. Are we really trying to help the dog or put off our own grief? Delaying death is the inevitable side effect of many treatments we face as adults but does a dog ever really have an informed ability to make a decision?
On reflection, it made me think a lot about pets I had as a child and how each of their lives ended. Each of our pets seemed to have health problems that meant none of them lived a very long life. Pure bad luck. We had several dogs, each of them only living to 4 or 5. One lived until 8. It was the one who lived longest that was to have the greatest impact on me. He became acutely unwell with kidney failure, but of course that had been going on unnoticed for some weeks. When the time came to allow him to be euthanised my mother could not bear to go to the vets with him as she was so upset. I was 12 years old. I insisted I would go instead. My father agreed to come with me and drove us to the vets. On arriving, the vet came out to the car to get our dog and I followed. My father couldn’t really bear it either, so somehow I took the ‘adult role’. That vet sought to find out my understanding, he assessed my ability to cope, he spoke to me with compassion, with patience, he took time to ensure my experience as an impressionable pre-teen was not traumatic, despite my sadness.
I held our dog in my arms, and spoke to him softly and gently and told him that I loved him and that he was ok. He looked at me with those doughy eyes, the way dogs do and he seemed calm. I can remember him becoming floppy in my arms, breathing his last breath and the vet encouraged me to lay him down gently. Clear as if it were last week I remember it. And I have reflected that the things I said to my dog; calming and reassuring and that he was loved are the very basis of Soul Midwifery. Even then I believe it was in me, not to be upset but to give love.
Then my sorrow poured out, then the grieving began. But never in front of him, I knew not to upset my dog. A big part of me became an adult that day. I became the adult for those who couldn’t do it. I have never forgotten the way the vet made me feel while my dog was dying. He was so professional and human and kind. I never forgot his name either.
I know events like this have shaped me, have made good & compassionate & beautiful end of life care run through me like the words on a stick of rock. I know hundreds of events like this have led me to the place I am today.
I spent a few days recently with present thoughts about the event with my dog. Also the thoughts of whether the guidance I had given that person about what to do with their own dog was the right message.
Last week I was at a community event and I began speaking to a gentleman who was very passionate about animal welfare and how people react and behave when they choose treatments or not for their animals. We spoke briefly about our feelings about the TV super-vet and some of the extremes that owners choose to go to with their animals for survival. Our views were quite similar. He told me his name and I felt like I was being sucked back in time. No lie. The hairs on my neck stood up. He was the vet from nearly 30 years prior. He was my vet. I could not unravel the story quick enough and he recalled it too. If that’s not universal affirmation I don’t know what is. It completed the circle my mind needed. Our subconscious prepares us for things that are just about to rear their heads.
And affirmation is just wonderful. Like a fuzzy warm smile to ourselves letting us know the universe planned it all along. All will be well.