Now when I meet a dog whom I know is going to be euthanized, I no longer get upset about it or at least I've learned to turn down the volume on that upset so I can carry on with my day, do my laundry, vacuum the floor.
I may spend some time with the dog but usually only in its kennel because often it's in no condition to be taken outside. It's usually a dog which even under more ideal circumstances would be forcing its owners to consider end of life options.
The more appreciative the dog is with my company, the harder it is, of course, so I have to turn down the emotional volume even further. And when the dog leans into me or licks my hand or tries to play, I am already as cold and soulless as a polished black granite block. Everything, the dark, the light, bounce off me. Nothing pierces the surface. Nothing enters. Nothing is allowed out.
I hold this old Jack Russell on my lap. All his teeth are rotten and I try not to breathe in his foul breath when he looks up at me with his foggy eyes. He is incontinent, maybe something wrong with his kidneys; his hips are ruined; he knuckles over and he teeters and falls when he walks; his vision is going, of course; he has a severe heart murmur; later, I am told, he is infested with fleas. But this dog, like every old dog I've ever met, cares not about his ailments, pushes them all aside and spends his time enjoying the company of a human. He does not realize or perhaps doesn't care that I've turned myself into a distant, impenetrable thing.
He nudges my hand with his muzzle. I give him the touch of my hands. I hold him, I scratch his ears, rub his chest, pat his back, hold him. Hold him some more. I give him my hands. I cannot give him anything else.
I don't think about his confusion, his loneliness, his abandonment. I don't think about how he must feel forsaken - but I know of course he feels forsaken. His owner was his god and his god has forsaken him. I don't think about the coward who threw this dog away, this coward who couldn't carry this dog to his final moments of life, or maybe the person was too lazy or too stupid or too selfish. I don't think about those things until later. Later I think maybe this person was just an asshole.
How many billions of us humans are here weighing this planet down, complaining daily about the mundane, always wanting more even though we've already taken over this whole goddam world. Everything is ours already and we bitch and moan and kill for more and then we don't even want it, get tired of it and throw it away. And yet, here is this pathetic, sick, abandoned and about to be euthanized animal who has nothing in the world, who is about to lose his last small foothold in this world, and right now, at this moment, it is everything I am not. It is happy. It is hopeful.
Rest in peace.