I saw my dear friend Janet. She looked tired, older, sad. Where there is always a light shining from her, it was dark. I asked how she’d been and she told me she’d lost her dear friend and companion Toby. And I said, “I’m so sorry”, I hadn’t known. I would have shown up, sent a card.
Toby was her furry four-legged friend. He was her daily purpose, her constant companion after her children had flown from the nest. And he had been suffering from a cancer that eventually caused a suffering which she was compassionate enough to alleviate him from.
The veterinarians thanked me when I put my cat Butthead to sleep. He was drowning inside his own lungs from congestive heart failure which is what my father-in-law lost his battle with last May a year after Butthead. Miss Janet said she wished she could have been able to ease her own Mother’s suffering so long ago when she’d asked her to.
We stood there and contemplated why we were incapable to make those compassionate decisions when our loved ones are suffering. Either incapable of coming to terms with saying a final farewell to our dear pets to make a compassionate decision or having laws which will not permit us to euthanize human beings when they ask. We wish there were other ways, other choices besides the ones we are given. Because each of us will face these decisions. We’ll be confused and angry when we must. But we must.
I think, why would anyone get another pet after each and every one of our inevitable losses? But I know how incredible a pet’s selfless unconditional love feels. How almost unworthy we feel to have it bestowed upon us. Such bottomless trust, it makes us super-beings. And we recommit to this again and again knowing that, what we receive in the short time we are allowed to love them, is a whisper of infinity and transcendence and peace. That which we then gift back to them with our compassion at their life’s ending.
For the many broken hearts from lost loved ones I have learned of recently, I grieve for your loss too. And I know you are better for knowing them. There will never be another Toby, who liked very much to root through my purse in search of gum to steal, but there will be other lovers and friends to know. And I know Toby would approve.