What My Dogs Taught Me — Accepting Death — Commentary

Lest after you read the title of this posting that you think I'm depressed or any of my pack are in poor health, don't worry....

Joy  |  Oct 15th 2006


Life Lessons Learned From Dogs

Lest after you read the title of this posting that you think I’m depressed or any of my pack are in poor health, don’t worry. Everybody is fine and doing well (though I do appreciate your concern!). I know Dogsters are sensitive, kind folks who care about others so let’s set that aside right now.

I got to thinking about Death the other day, maybe because it was a gorgeous day and everybody was bouncing around having a great time mouth-wrestling and tugging on toys and even barking at the kids walking in the alley. Okay, I know it sounds kind of odd to think about Death when everything is going well and He doesn’t seem to be anywhere around. (Being a HUGE Terry Pratchett fan I really like the idea of Death as a kind of friendly guy in black walking around speaking in UPPER CASE LETTERS so it seems natural to talk about HIM as well, a HIM.) It was just one of those moments that feel so good it reminds you that there are the other times, and death is the ultimate bad time.

But to the point. Dogs have taught me not to fear Death. Its something that is with us all the time and that we will meet at the end of the road. As I watched Sol and the rest playing it occurred to me that we two-legged types worry about it way too much. So much so, that it colors everything else leading up to it, which, for most of us is about 60+ years. That’s a long time to fear something that may actually be a friend in the end.

See dogs know that little fact. Humans fear death so much they forget it. Dogs know that at some time in their lives they will not be able to mouth-wrestle or tug on toys or even bark at kids in the alley. When that day comes, when the pain is too much or the effort too hard, Death becomes a friend. Death becomes the friends who stops the pain, who releases the spirit to move beyond it. And dogs know that.

Oh, I know some will scoff and say, “dogs don’t fear death because they don’t know it exists.” To those people I just smile and move on. They aren’t listening to the dogs or seeing what they know. Dogs know about death. They just understand it better than us two-legged types who share their beds and their hearts.

How do I know dogs know about death? Because of one dog who showed me the beauty of accepting death and moving on down the line. Mischka was a Weimaraner. She was one of those dogs (and I KNOW every Dogster knows what I mean) who is much more than just a cold nose and a warm hug. Mischka was actually born in my bed (not by design, just because I fell asleep before labor began). She lived for 13 years. It was cancer that took her but she made me learn from her at the end. She showed me that she knew Death was coming and that she WELCOMED it!

How? Mischka had never liked going to the vet. Okay, you say, very few dogs get excited at the prospect and you’d be right. But the very last time we took Mischka to the vet it was time for her to go to sleep. The cancer had progressed to the point where she could barely stand. She was in visible pain. I knew that it was only my selfishness that kept her in her body and I had to take the responsibility to let her go. This was maybe twenty years ago and there were no drugs that could help her to any real degree. I had to get let her go.

When I led her to the car, this dog who could barely stand wagged her tail and jumped in like she was going out for a time in the park. And how do I know that she was doing it because she was ready for Death? Because when we got to the vets, she acted the same way jumping out of the car. She knew where she was. She had been there many times before and EVERY time before she had held back and tried to avoid going in the building. This time, Mischka almost pulled me in the building with her. She wanted to go!

I won’t take you through the event (I’m sure many of you have gone through it yourselves and you don’t need to hear it again) but suffice it to say that while the vet and I were crying, Mischka was at peace.

What about afterwards? I know many of you are asking yourselves that. Well, that’s a tale for another time. The only thing I’ll tell you now is that I KNOW Mischka is happy and pain-free. So when it comes time for any of my current pack to leave me, I’ll remember Mischka’s lesson and gift to me. I’ll still grieve but it will be for me, not them. Death may be a big man dressed in black, but HE loves dogs!