Monday, August 18, 2008

Learnings from a compressed life

kw: book reviews, nonfiction, pets

It's a little book, even in the large print edition, and one-third pictures, so it was about a two-hour read. But Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen is worth more than a couple hours' thought. Ms Quindlen's books belong in the "help yourself be better" category. This book is a more personal reflection on her own growth over the fifteen years of her Labrador Retriever's life, and particularly his aging and death.

Fifteen years is about 20% longer than most Labs live, so by the time old Beau (for Beauregard) was ready to go, he was an elder of elders, a centenarian in dog years. The short lesson of the book is simple: dogs are still dogs, and much of what we think about what they think is projection. For people, I understand that hearing usually persists the longest. For a dog, it is the nose.

In clear-headed love, the author and the family didn't delay too long when it was time. I, too have observed a few animal deaths, and it is true that they know when it is time, and resent being "held over". The Quindlens set a date, had the veterinarian present, and praised the old dog into a triumphant passing.

Dogs are dogs, and people are people. I think our fear of death is because we know way, way too much. When God said, "The day you eat of it [the tree of knowledge of good and evil] you shall surely die", more than anything, He was saying that the knowledge of death results in a fear of death, which can make life into a living death. Now we need God to help us escape such fear, to live life while it may be lived, and, like our faithful and less knowledgeable friends, embrace the end when, as it must, it comes.

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