By Clare Langley-Hawthorne
On Friday, with great sadness, we had to euthanize our beloved collie Benjamin. As an unapologetic dog lover I was devastated by the sudden blow but it placed in perspective how we often treat the sick – and how in many ways we get the opportunity to treat our pets more humanely than we can ever hope to be treated as humans.
After a series of strange, stroke like episodes, we sought a neurologist’s opinion about Benjamin. Not only could he be seen the following day but they then scheduled an immediate MRI scan, spinal tap and chest x-ray. That night the neurologist phoned me to discuss the results and altered his schedule so he could go through the images in person with me the following day. Everyone at the animal care center treated me with compassion and concern and having seen how distressed I was when I saw Benjamin after the tests (he could barely walk) the neurologist phoned me twice that evening to see how both collie and owner were faring. I was told that if we did consider surgery that the neurologists would put aside their surgery schedules and do Benjamin. Having seen many family members face a cancer diagnosis and treatment I can tell you that Benjamin received far better attention and care than they ever did (and they had both health insurance and decent physicians!)
When we finally made the decision not to put Benjamin through surgery (a proposition that had little guarantee of success and we knew the tumor on his spinal cord would all too quickly return) and sought euthanasia, our own vet and the neurologist were both quick to console and reassure us. When it comes to the animal world we at least can alleviate pain and humanely deal with what is a terminal illness. Would that the same could always be said for our human companions.
Today’s blog post is unashamedly sentimental. I remember all my collies – Sam, Charles, Edward and now Benjamin. I grew up with a true Lassie as a companion. Sam was the kind of collie who would leap over furniture and through an open window to come to his owner’s defence. I still cannot watch any Lassie movie or TV episode without weeping. Call me a wimp but all I need is those deep brown eyes, the cocked head and the classic Lassie intense gaze and I am a goner. Benjamin was the most mellow, soft-hearted dog in the world. He was a true Californian – laid-back, zen like and yet a true gentleman. He will be missed.
My writing experience will no longer be the same without him asleep nearby. I will miss hearing his sighs and seeing him lift his head as if to say “isn’t it time we were on the couch watching TV – not at the desk revising?” Half the time I used Benjamin as an excuse not to work. After we had the twins, the evening was the only ‘me’ time Benjamin and I used to get. He would place his snout on the cushions on the couch, look up at me with his deep brown eyes, as if to ask permission. He would then clamber up, all fur and uncoordination. I would then stretch out and put my feet under his paws for warmth. Those are the times I will cherish.
Call me foolish but I have lost a beloved friend and when I begin my next manuscript I know I will look up from the page and feel his absence acutely. I will miss the comfort I got from being with an animal who could live each moment without worrying about the next, reveling in the joy that came from the simple things, like lying on the couch, letting the world pass him by, living simply, without pain – knowing that the people around you would never let you suffer. I think we humans have a lot to learn from our beloved canine friends.