Saturday, July 28, 2007

Two Kinds of People

Ihave never accepted the premise that there are "two kinds of people". You know what I mean..."there are two kinds of people, those who love country music and those who hate it", "...those who love Neil Diamond and those who hate him", " lovers and everyone else".
I started out wanting to say that anyone who is not a dog lover cannot fathom my grief over the loss of my dear canine companion, Barney.
I don't believe that's true, though, now that I think about it. I caught the tail end of a very stupid TV show the other day where a kid was grieving over the loss of his chameleon. The writing was terrible and the acting worse, and though I personally cannot warm up to the cold-blooded species, I could certainly feel for someone's loss.
Even so, I wonder...what makes some friends respond so lovingly and gently to the grief I feel over losing my dog (two people even sent me cards!), and some ignore it completely? One friend drove me and my dog to the vet and another one offered. My friend sat with me afterward for several hours, helping me get through, and then offered to go with me to pick up his ashes two days later.
Others merely questioned my decision, I know they were hoping there was some way I didn't have to go through this, but some questioned and felt I was wrong. Fortunately both vets I consulted said this was what had to be done and that I was doing the right thing. I knew I was, but it helped to hear it.
My precious puppy (at over 10 years old) had been getting more and more nervous over the past few months. I wasn't sure what to make of it, and it had only become a point of puzzlement, not concern, though to spare him, I would put him in the garage or laundry room when groups of people were over. I hadn't realized how much I had grown to distrust his reactions, but in retrospect I realize that I have been more and more careful to keep him from strangers or stressful situations.
Well, he got out and when he and my beagle came in contact with people, he got scared. The beagle is very friendly and will go to anyone who might provide food and/or a way home. A little boy threw himself around her, making Barney quite nervous and agitated. He began a low growl and showing all the fear signs in posture and vocalizations. The boy took compassion on him and threw himself on him to hug. Barney nipped at him, breaking the skin with one tooth. All witnesses say he reacted aggressively.
Now I am convinced that if Barney had wanted to hurt the boy, he would have done some real damage, but the fear-aggression response is too intense, and is one of the best indicators of a dog that will bite. Who knew? Not me. My very real fear, confirmed by both vets, is that this response was only likely to get worse, and the next time could be disfiguring or worse.
So I refused to allow myself to feel it, as much as possible, so that I could do the right thing, and now Barney is in a container on the mantle. This is not where he will stay, but my son is coming for a visit and dearly loved Barney, so I thought perhaps he would want to be part of the burial. We'll see. I can do it myself, but that would just emphasize the worst part of losing very alone I feel without him and how very much I miss him.
Anyway, I think I have discovered that there are people who love dogs and can reach out to you in your own grief, those who love dogs and are paralyzed because of it, people who don't love dogs, but love you enough to care about your grief, and those who don't love dogs and are baffled by your reaction. Then there are those who care so little for the well-being of others that it defies their understanding that you would do something that would cause you so much pain for the benefit of others. For a few moments now and then I envy them their self-centeredness. If I could live with utter disregard for the safety of others I would have my buddy with me. If I could convince myself that what I want is right because I want it, I would not be so sad and depressed.
As selfish as I can be, I cannot go there. I could not live with the fear of something happening to a child who wandered onto our property and scared the dog. I could not live with the horror if something happened that I could have prevented.
So I held my buddy, with him looking trustingly into my face, as he died. Thank heavens for the touch typing course I took many years ago, because my eyes are so full of tears I can barely see as I write this. I never really thought much about what happens to animals when they die, but I hope Billy Graham, John Calvin, J. Vernon McGee and others are right when they said animals will be in heaven. It seems too sad to think that my faithful friend simply ceased to exist at all.
Anyway, I'm sure there are many different ideas on this, even among the Protestant community--dog people or not.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hopeless cause

I got up this morning to find one of our mouse traps had been tripped. Strangely one of them was in the middle of the kitchen floor. I wasn't sure why, as we have had them on either side of the fridge for weeks with no takers (which was quite a relief). I remember seeing them both last night and thinking it was time to get rid of them as it was clear we do not have a mouse problem.

I wondered if Alex, home from college and a summer mission trip, saw them and decided to set one out, or if he or my husband, Steve, had seen a mouse last night and reset the traps.

In any case, I was upset because they had gotten up and left me with a dead mouse to take care of. I don't do rodents and I don't do dead. If it were up to me, we would simply have safe traps and I would release them far out in unpopulated fields. The deal has always been that if you use these kid of traps I won't argue, but you check them and get rid of the evidence before I can see it.

I didn't want to traipse around the thing all day, so I approached the trap to try to release the corpse for an ignominious burial in the trash. The instant I touched the trap it began to move. I shrieked and jumped halfway across the room as the critter dance the trap around in a wild circle with his back feet.

I know I should have clobbered him (or her, how can you tell?) but I couldn't do it, it was struggling so to survive. I decided that if this little guy would fight so for his life that I would release him outside and give him a chance, slight though it might be. I carefully approached the trapped mouse with a small stack of papers rescued from the trash to use to carefully sweep the mouse, trap and all into my red smiley face dustpan. He struggled a bit, but it was fairly easy. Grabbing a table knife to use to release the bar holding him in the trap, I carried him to the back yard. I released him near the woodpile, so he would have a place to hide either to recover or to die.

Surprisingly, he did not head for the woodpile, but made a very small journey, inches only, in the opposite direction. Still thinking that not providing him a swift death was probably the cruel thing to do, I could not help but feel pity for this creature struggling to live. I put a few peanuts near him and then went to view him from above on the deck.

When I checked him a few minutes later he had gotten himself into a small depression in the dirt about the size of a mango. "Poor thing." I thought. "There is no way you are going to be able to get out of there, injured as you are." I figured what I had done is probably just left him there as easy prey for a bird passing overhead. I sighed and went inside.

I could not stay away, but checked on him about ten minutes later. The hole was empty. Sure he had been lunch, I was surprised to find him a few inches to the side of the hole. Sadly, he was clearly dead, so I went to toss the body. Surprise, he moved.

Okay. That's enough. I grabbed a shoe box, lined with shredded newspaper and placed him inside, pulling some newspaper over him to give him the feeling of protection. Then I placed a cap full of water and a few peanuts in the box. He just lay there, so I dripped a couple of drops of water over his mouth. He greedily drank them down, so I gave him some more.

I don't know if the poor thing can or should survive, but last I checked he was still holding his own, unlike his poor buddy I found in the other trap.

Mice don't belong in the house, unless they are in a cage or in a children's storybook, but I can't stand these traps. If he survives, how am I going to keep him out of the house? Will he survive only to be left in the middle of some vacant field out in the country? Time will tell.