Is today a good day to die?
Upon the passing of
Fanny the Wonder Dog 1999-2012
I seem to count the stages of my life by the dogs I have loved; more importantly, the dogs who have loved me. We inherited Fanny when acquaintances of ours moved overseas and could not take the dog. I had just had to put down Brandy, my beloved golden retriever who had developed osteosarcoma, a dreadful way to go. The cancer was in her skull and her head bones grew and grew until the pressure upon her eyes caused her to go blind. When she walked into the pond and nearly drowned, we knew it was time. Brandy had helped me raise my son and his friends. She was the ultimate pet, perfectly content and long-suffering no matter how many times her ears or tail were pulled by small children. She was two years old when I got her; my son was eighteen months and they grew up together.
With Fanny I wasn’t really ready for another dog, but there she was; an older dog unlikely to find a home quickly. So we agreed to take her. Fanny was the most remarkably potty-trained dog I have ever known. She never once went anywhere but her own yard. For weeks we carried around little plastic baggies that were never used on walks. Even on trips to the park, or long walks, Fanny held it until she got home.
She was big and blonde and not the brightest of dogs. But from the first day, she decided she was my dog. Don’t know why. To tell the truth maybe I resented having her there instead of Brandy. She made her decision and that was that; unquestionably my dog whether I liked it or not. Curious, affectionate and ever helpful, she just wanted to be close to her people.
Being so large and ferocious made her appear to be a marvelous guard dog. She wasn’t. Actually she was nervous and scared of thunder, loud noises, strangers and probably a host of other things. For a while we had a chow mix, my son’s puppy, and invariably Fanny would look to Ming to see whether she should bark or not? Be scared or not? Ming being a third the size of Fanny made these canine conversations most interesting to observe.
So being a big dog often means hip dysplasia. Gradually the last couple of years, Fanny developed what we call turn-out in ballet. Her hind feet no longer lined up with her front feet; instead they canted outward giving her a rolling sailor’s walk. She still loved walking, chasing any birds foolish enough to stay in range, and carrots. She learned to love carrots when we began juicing again. She would hear the juicer and know that treats were coming. Carrots were a better “carrot” for the dog than any doggy treat ever manufactured.
Walks became more problematic and much shorter. Some days she could do her usual circuit but more often she would visibly tire and ask to go back home. Still the jangle of the leash always perked her up. Our walks became gentle strolls around the block. On a couple of occasions she became so exhausted that she just sat down where she stopped. One time that was on the edge of a curb. And one time it was smack in the middle of the street. What could I do? I sat down with her and was thankful we live in a sleepy neighborhood without many fast cars, or cars at all that evening!
This weekend she couldn’t get up at all. She was still eager to see us, still eager to greet us and still thrilled to have a carrot, but she couldn’t get up. She no longer had control over her hindquarters. For the first time since her hips began giving her problems she clearly was in pain now. The ultimate humiliation for the ultimately house-trained dog was the distress of soiling herself since she couldn’t rise.
Her veterinarian Dr. Janie made a house call this afternoon. My husband asked do we get better medical care as a dog than a human? But I told him only when it’s most likely the final doctor visit. Sometimes I think I would want someone to do the same for me. What happens when we reach the end of our days? I want to believe I will still have my joie de vivre but will I when I am incontinent, incoherent, hooked to machines and know that it won’t ever get any better? Dr. Janie says maybe it would be a good thing for humans too but she fears people would abuse it. I don’t know. Today it looks like a gift.
We have a new granddaughter who delighted in visiting Fanny. I’m convinced that her first word was “ruff, ruff.” Later her parents confirmed that her first consistent word was gou-gou which is doggie in Chinese. Come to think of it my son’s first words/sounds were ruff, ruff too Children speak dog more fluently than adults. How do you explain to a not yet two-year old that the gou-gou is gone?
Pink ribbons, pink slips, pink liquid in a needle. Why do some people think pink is a cheery color? The vet tech holds Fanny’s body and I hold her head while Dr. Janie slips the needle into Fanny’s front leg. I continue to stroke her head as her eyes begin to close. Her heartbeat calms. Her breathing slows. And slows. And stops.
Today is a gorgeous autumn day. The sun is warm but not too hot. A gentle breeze ruffles our hair. Today is good. Dr. Janie takes out her stethoscope and listens for the giant heart that has stilled. Fanny was a good dog. She had a good life. No one should have to suffer pain needlessly. Today was a good day to die. Rest in peace.
Welcome to Sustainable Living! I'm glad you found this blog and I hope that the information and reflections you find here will be useful to you. I invite you to respond if you find something helpful or if you have discovered something worth sharing with others.
It is important to me to educate the public on sustainable living and how to make it a practical and possible part of our daily lives. My concern is for our children and their future. I fear that our rampant unrepentant consumerism in this country is on a unstoppable downhill slope. Our houses are too big. We buy things we don't need and soon will not not want. Our landfills are filling. Newer, bigger and better things are manufactured, marketed and purchased with what seems to be a planned obsolescence, with no thought of the ultimate destination of yet another thing. Our technology allows me to set in my home and type this but computers, cell phones and other electronic devices are changing so rapidly that they are becoming our biggest disposal problems with their use of heavy metals and complicated ingredients.
Yes, when we are finished with something, we can throw it in the trash can. Then what? Does the average American think at all about where it goes from there. According to the learner.org website (www.learner.org/interactives/garbage/solidwaste.html), the United States generates about 230 million tons of trash every day. That is between 4 and 5 pounds of garbage for each person each day. That is unacceptable and absolutely unsustainable. We cannot continue indefinitely doing this. Less than one fourth of all this refuse is actually recycled. According to the University of Colorado at Boulder (recycling.colorado.edu/education_and_outreach/recycling_facts.html), this leaves us with a legacy of 90,000 lbs. of trash per person over the course of the average American's lifetime. How much of this ends up in our streams, rivers and lakes? How much of it are we ultimately eating, drinking and breathing?
We have to stop thinking that when we throw something in a trash can, it magically disappears. Our ecological awareness is the equivalent of an infant thinking that when we play peek-a-boo, the person actually is gone! As responsible world citizens, we must begin to be aware of absolutely everything we consume. For each and every choice, we must consider where it came from, do we really need it, will we actually use it, and where will it go when we are finished with it.
EcoLiving has become one of the hot topics today, but what does ecology friendly living really mean? Most of realize that buying something that touts the word "green" does not necessarily mean that it is earth friendly. In fact, using words like "green", "natural", and, of course, "organic" are some of the most effective marketing tools today.
There are national standards for using the word "organic" but package designers and marketing moguls seem adept at fuzzing the rules. If it doesn't have the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic seal, it isn't. Plain and simple. But you will see on packaging "naturally grown" which may mean just grown, outside in nature. "Contains organic ingredients" may mean that less than 1o% of the ingredients may be organic. Many products that use these misleading labels may even contain genetically altered ingredients.
Most consumers are not going to take the time to educate themselves on this maze of meanings. If they see the words natural or organic, they believe it must be. American consumers have a long history of trusting that the Food and Drug Administration and other agencies will protect them. They have failed to see the erosion of consumer protection backed by lobbyists from mega-chemical companies (i.e. commercial fertilize and pesticide or herbicide products) and big agri-business.
So how do we educate ourselves as consumers? How do we educate our children so that they can make healthy informed choices? The National Organic Program of the United States Department of Agriculture (http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/indexIE.htm) has strict standards on what is or isn't organic. Visit their website for detailed information on what the standards are and what they mean for you as a consumer.
So what can you do today that will make a real difference? As I write this I can see across the street what some of us have come to believe is the national flower for the 21st century - a tattered plastic bag flapping, caught on the branches of a tree. Many countries around the world have recognized how insidious these bags have become and are either banning them or heavily taxing them. Don't wait for it to become a government issue. Do you need a plastic bag for one or two items at the store? Will you re-use that bag for a purpose that would justify accepting it? Then refuse it. Take the item and your receipt and feel good about not throwing that gently used bag away when you get home.
Buy organic when possible.
Buy locally grown and seasonally appropriate fruits and vegetables.
Support farmers markets.
Walk or ride a bike instead of driving.
Use and re-use cloth bags or baskets when you shop--not just at the grocery store--every store.
I consider myself to be a world citizen. I have been interested in sustainable living, organic gardening and farming methods, recycling and re-using since I was a child growing up on a farm in Kentucky. Those priorities have never changed but they seem to have become more imperative in recent years. My concern with living lightly on Planet Earth have colored every aspect of my life.
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Michael Pollan
There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. Aldo Leopold (Sand County Almanac 1949)
Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. Chief Seattle
The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion. Thomas Paine