Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dog Ruminations

I sat at supper late tonight. Wifie was conducting choir practice. I made ribs, mashed potatoes with carmelized onions and garlic, and corn on the cob. Duke is licking my elbow, panting with his crazed anticipation of a bone as usual. I hug his neck and scratch behind his ears and hand off the bone. I know I am handing him his last meals. He takes it as a sign of love. He runs outside with it, I hear the flapping of the dog door. He is dog happy. I feel like I am betraying him.

In the back yard the sprinkler is running to soften the ground in the corner where all of our dogs, cats, mice, hamsters and fish are buried. Sixteen years of pets. Some time in the next couple days I will dig Duke's grave. He lays on the grass in the yard gnawing his bone, oblivious to the meaning of the sprinkler running at ten o'clock at night.

The last dogs we buried were old. They lived out their days and had strokes or some calamitous seizure and euthanasia was a merciful end. They lived long with us and we could not imagine life without them, but the fallen order and death separates not just human beings, but human beings and all creation, including our animals. Like Adam, we named our animal and called him "Duke" when we got him from the Dog Pound, and he learned his new name. But even with a new name it did not renew his nature; he is a victim of the fallen order and the alienation of creation and humanity, and it will result in death that not even love can overcome in this fallen cosmic order.

Can dogs repent? I don't know. I know they can learn. I also know they can "feel guilty". But Rahab showed more "guilt" slinking off the couch when we came home than Duke does for biting a friend of the family. His nature and nurture are too overpowering, he cannot but bite and defend some dog boundary that we cannot unravel. The fallen order forces us to choose between a loyal part of the family and the safety and wellbeing of future strangers, friends or family who may come into our home. It is not a choice we were intended to have to make, either for dogs or human beings. But we do. And it is hard. And it hurts like hell whether it is a dog or a husband, a brother, a wife, a friend or an employee.

So for a couple more nights I will pet my dog. I will let him lick my elbow at the supper table to get my attention. I will feed him table scraps. I will enjoy the annoyance. Soon I will miss it.


Ranger said...

We had three chow mixes on our farm growing up. 2 were hit by the school bus, the third lived to be almost 20 yrs old, I think if we had put him on a respirator, he would have lived longer. They were all amazing dogs, and the last one we raised from a puppy. I was glad, that they never showed any aggression, and I am sorry for you, that you have to make this neccessary decision.

s-p said...

Ranger, Duke is a great dog, but he must have been REALLY abused. My son has lived with us for 6 months and every time he walks in Duke acts like he's a total stranger. Its just sad that as he's getting more comfortable around some people he's getting more aggressive with others. I'm sure it would be a different story if we had gotten him as a puppy instead of a year old. Life is just plain hard sometimes.

Kirk said...

s-p, I can tell you from a legal standpoint that you are doing the right thing. They taught us in law school that every dog gets one free bite. That is to say, that owners generally are not liable (or were not liable at common law) for the animal's first act of aggression. However, once the owner has reason to believe the animal is dangerous, then he may be sued for damages by the animal's next victim. Of course, the Christian should not be motivated by the possibility of lawsuits (fear), but by the desire to see that no one is unnecessarily injured (love).

s-p said...

Thanks, Kirk. We're definitely motivated more out of "love" than fear of a lawsuit. We have friends who are afraid of dogs, and who have kids etc. My oldest daughter is in 3rd year of law school, I'm sure she'd have some advice for us. Its just too bad in a fallen order the "right thing" is to kill something.

David T said...

We've not met, Steve, but my heart goes out to you, to your wife, and to Duke. I've been in a somewhat similar position...peace did not come quickly or easily, but it did come, eventually.

s-p said...

Thank you, David. Its hard now because I know we're going to take him to the vet next week some time when I have time off work, and I have to interact with him and look at him every day. He has no clue of the sadness I feel when I pet him and do our daily routines. I told my wife at supper, if only it was just me, her and our dogs somewhere in the mountains we wouldn't be making this decision. But its not, and we have to. I know the grief diminishes with time, I've lost a lot of pets, people and relationships over the years. But the pain of the present moment is very real, for sure.

DvntWriter said...

Greetings S-P. I am sorry that my first comment in months is to such sad news. It is strange to me sometimes that we as humans can fall so utterly in love with our pets, creatures of the Earth that do nothing but demand our love and care. Perhaps that is why we care for them as we do, because they demand so little, but so much at the same time.

The animal lover in me cries. Is there no refuge for animals such as Duke? I know the pound would kill him, but is there no place that he can go? Or some amazing training that he could go through (I *hate* to bring up reality shows, but even I have to respect what Cesar Milan can do with difficult and dangerous dogs)?

God bless and keep you sir.

s-p said...

Hi Christina, Thanks for checking in. Yeah, the private shelters here are full and they aren't usually willing to take an undadoptable dog. We talked to a trainer at our local pet store and she said biters are really a risk and she doesn't recommend trying to rehab them. (BTW, I LOVE Cesar too, I'd love to have a job like that...I'm really good with dogs.) In the end its just really a sad thing after he's come so far. Monday is the day, the vet said by law we had to wait ten days after he bit someone as a rabies precaution.