I just learned today that our family dog, Molly, was put down. She lived a happy thirteen or so years, and was very loved by everyone who she encountered.
Dogs show us so much about ourselves. They show us the qualities of the best possible human beings we could ever be. They're loyal, affectionate, trusting, and go out of their way to please others. And in the last days of their life they never bemoan or show regret of any sort. Instead they continue to keep their heads high, regardless of how pained by old age.
When I was home over the winter I remember hearing Molly whimpering by the two wide stairs that lead to the hallway in our house. While the drop is not very large, her arthritis made even menial tasks too painful to accomplish. I was confused why she wanted to leave her bed when it was so late, but I couldn't neglect an old lady's requests. So I picked her up and helped her onto the hallway floor. She then limped over to the bottom of the stairs by my parent's room. While she could not make it up the large flight, she made sure to protect the bottom of the stairway. It was the most she could do, and nothing could prevent her from doing that. We outlive most of our pets by decades, but their microcosm of a life-time we see the same flighting emotions, moments, and milestones that we encounter in our own life. They show us that life is fleeting, but that it shouldn't stop us from being the best we can be.
I can remember my first encounter with death. It was when I was maybe four or five. Our family's dog, Margot, passed away. I can't recall if it was old age, or we put her down, but I do remember my mother coming to me and my brother and explaining Margot was no longer with us. We were all very sad. She had been the first dog my parents had (their first "kid") and for my brother and I our first dog. But while we all mourned her departure, my Mom asked us all to write a list of all of the things we loved about her, and the things we would miss.
Here are my favorite memories of Molly:
- Even in her old age when she couldn't run to the door to check out domicile infiltrators, she would always bark, and try her best to do her part in protection.
- Her mad love with the tennis ball. I can remember playing fetch with her for hours with that slimy sphere of yellow felt.
- I remember when my Mom and I were making Tiramisu, and we gave her the lady fingers soaked in Kahlua. She got tipsy off them, and walked sideways into the counter top.
- Even though we all made fun of her appetite (she often never chewed, and swallowed food in one big bird-like gulp), there was never a better dish-wash-helper.
- I remember her as a puppy. She would boldly bump into our eldest dog Max, and try to play with him.
- I remember her tug-of-war games with Mikey. Even though she was not as strong or as energetic, she would stubbornly bite onto the rope, and never give in.
- When her arthritis was bad enough that she couldn't take walks in the woods anymore my Dad would place her in the front seat with him so that she could still get the fresh damp air in her face.
- She was a kissing fiend. If you gave her any part of your face she would kiss it. I remember holding my brother down, and having Molly lick his face non-stop.
- She couldn't walk far from the house to go to the bathroom, so she just went outside on our patio. She would go to the door and bark, and then bark again when she wanted to come in. Seven years earlier we probably would have scolded her for being a "bad dog". But at that point she knew she earned it. She lived a full and happy life, and knew we would understand.