Grief, loss, and grace
When critical thinking and emotional needs smash into one another
Hendrix, my beloved pit mix rescue, is deceased. By my choice, and through communication between him, myself, and his other human. He gave more love in his five years with us than I could give in a lifetime. Dogs have that special gift of graceful loyalty. I do not think humans can hope to achieve such a state. Worth shooting for though.
Hendrix came from California. His hips and back legs were beginning to fail him. Our final visit to his favorite veterinarian was the crux point - he lost the use of his hind quarters, so I held him up and talked to him while he calmed. It took a few minutes for his nether region to regain communication with his brain. He trusted me to hold him up while his own systems couldn’t. I’m grateful that I had that moment, or two minutes with that dog. Anxiety mixed with trust, loyalty, and hope.
He lasted another month, but the lung cancer was winning. The balance was shifting. He didn’t give up because he loved his people and his walks and his bites. Routines and environment made Bubba Brown the happiest, handsomest dog in the whole town of Wilkeson, Washington.
No matter how much we love another being, it’s important to let go of that life when it no longer feels enough joy. A tumor, like Donald Trump, is a life ender. My rescue dog’s tumor was making it hard to breathe, hard to eat, and hard to sleep. He was still loving, but in between coughing fits, and leaking dribbles of pee, and moments where sitting down or laying down caused him pain.
If there is a divine creator, my message to that being is go fuck yourself, you sadist piece of shit. Your universe of pointless suffering and entropy is stupid and causes mental trauma that serves no one and nothing.
My favorite thing about that brindle pit mix was his snuffles. When he was happy, he’d rub his big skulled, strong head against things and blow out air like a whale coming up to the surface for some atmosphere.
He was happy on his last walk, this afternoon, in the PNW fog. That mattered to me, because dogs depend on humans for their emotional well-being. That interspecies deal happened thousands of generations before I was born. Hendrix and I both benefitted from whatever bargain was struck between dogs and humans. He loved me unconditionally, and I loved him back that way.
The coughing caused by the lung tumor got worse. It became chronic. It was hurting his joy for life, and his contentment. If you find this essay, don’t hang on too long, or too hard. Dogs tell you when it is time. If you know how to listen. So do humans. Don’t support a culture of toxicity that demands humans suffer until the bitter end in the name of imaginary nonsensical dogma.
Hendrix let us know by going into the bathroom and sleeping there. He had never slept in the bathroom up to that point. He let us know by panting frantically. An indicator of dog discomfort. He told us he was ready by the way he sat down, or didn’t. Someone loved him before we did, and they taught him to sit for treats.
When he no longer did/could, that was him telling us - I’m hurting, please let me go. We listened, and we planned, and we found a vet who could help our beloved rescue pit mix die with dignity in a familiar environment where he didn’t also have to stress out.
I cried, hard, when my boy stopped breathing. I caressed his fur until it became room temperature. And then I started thinking about the next senior dog I would adopt, and started talking to my co-dog parent about what kind of life we would make joyous and safe next. All humans owe safety and security to each other and every life form we encounter, with the exception of predators.
Think about what that means, for a minute or two. Grief, loss, and grace. They aren’t a given, because reality isn’t a book full of myths and fables. You can mature more, and feel more, outside the confines of the cultures that came before you were born.
Hendrix benefited from such a paradigm. Maybe you will as well, if you’re willing to do the work. Critical thinking is hard. It demands choices that are often counter-intuitive. Feeling your own emotions and unpacking them rationally requires critical thinking skills.
Hendrix died well, and peacefully because of the confluence between these two states in my human mind, and hers. Dog mom, dog dad, and dog advocating. His tongue was out at the very end, and he snuffled and twitched his nose one last time.