A few months ago I had to put my pug to sleep. I did not expect to be so upset about it, but I was. Very upset. I was reminded of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The Power of the Dog," which reads:
There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie--
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.
When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find--it's your own affair--
But...you've given your heart for a dog to tear.
When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone--wherever it goes--for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart for the dog to tear.
We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long--
So why in Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
Kipling knew of which he wrote.
My pug, Norman, made it to three-and-one-half years old. He had been born with a liver shunt, which is a vein that loops around the liver so that the blood is not totally detoxified. It can be surgically repaired, but the mortality rate is at least 20%. Many vets opt for non-surgical treatment, which is what I did.
He probably should have died before he was one, but I kept him going for a lot longer. And he was a perfect example of what Henry Ward Beecher meant when he wrote, "The dog is the God of frolic." He was unendingly amusing. Most pugs are.
By three-and-one-half, though, he was having seizures and kidney failure, and had developed a tumor pressing on his heart and lungs. He was alive -- barely -- and the quality of life was non-existent. So I made what turned out to be the hardest decision of my life.
Even now I do not understand how I could be so attached to a dog, especially one as completely stupid as he was. Pugs aren't the brightest dogs, but my God, Norman had the IQ of a turnip. But I had raised him from a ten-week-old puppy, and he slept with me every night. (I told people, women came and went, but Norman always stayed).
It's the rage today to put down America and Western culture in general. But living in it, I was allowed to have a dog, one that got treated like a baby. Which Americans generally do to their pets.
A few years ago, in China, a young girl died of rabies after being bitten by a stray dog. The police responded by killing every dog for miles around -- 50,000 of them, most of them beaten to death. Say what you will about America, but what happened in China doesn't happen here. I can't imagine it ever happening. If it ever did...then it wouldn't be America anymore.
I didn't have Norman long enough. Not nearly long enough, since pugs live to be about 14. But I'd do it again.
I wish I knew who wrote it, but I don't. It's a good way to end the article, though.
"The are your friend, your partner, your protector. You are their life, their love, their leader. They will be yours, faithful and true...to the last beat of their heart. We owe it to them to be worthy of such devotion."