Possibly the most important lesson we can learn from dogs!
I was aware when writing the concluding part of Meet the dogs – Pharaoh that the next day I would be faced with writing about a subject that is a whole degree more difficult. Death!
It must have been in my mind when I wrote “of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.”
What has prompted today’s post?
Simply that Dhalia developed a limp in her front, right-hand, leg. That was a few weeks ago. Naturally, we took her to our local vet, Dr. Codd, who diagnosed a strained elbow joint probably as a result of arthritis; Dhalia is believed to be ten-years-old. With the recommended medication, the limp came to an end.
Then about two weeks ago, the elbow weakness appeared in her left-hand, front leg.
On Monday, we returned to Dr. Codd who took further X-rays and sought a second opinion. That second opinion came back with the probability that it was a “osteoproliferative neoplastic lesion” or bone cancer to you and me! It’s not one-hundred-per-cent certain but likely.
It only seemed like yesterday that Jean wrote about Dhalia in our ‘Meet the dogs’ series. That post included this photograph.
Jean is very sad, as one would expect, nay we both are. Dhalia, like Hazel and some of the other dogs here at home, has a loving openness towards humans that is truly remarkable when one learns of how these dogs came to be rescued: Dhalia being found by Jean living rough in a desolate part of a Mexican desert. This is what Jean wrote in that ‘Meet the dogs‘ account:
I named her Dhalia and after treatments for mange she became quite beautiful. She was the pivotal part of a short story, Messages from the Night, Paul wrote back in 2011. Under her sweet exterior remains that same will to survive so evident when I rescued her all those years ago. There has been more than one occasion that she has brought me a recently killed squirrel or an ancient bone. We love our Dhalia: she still reaches out with her front paw when she seeks attention. Dhalia will be ten-years-old this year.
Somehow, Dhalia’s possible last few weeks of life resonated with much else going on. Close to us, the recent death of a chicken, and one of our cats that does not have much longer to live. In the wider world, the Washington State mud-slide, flight MH370, and the Ukraine. The news media treat death as almost a trivial, incidental part of the scheme of things.
Prayer for an eagle
Please say a prayer for beautiful bald eagle who just died a death he did not deserve.
He was stuck on the ground near a concrete barrier on a stretch of interstate under construction in Arkansas. I spotted him with his head down, facing into the traffic that was passing a foot away from him.
He was an adult bald eagle-big and brave, facing down the oncoming 18 wheelers.
There was no place to pull off, concrete barriers on both sides, so I went to the next exit and backtracked. My adrenaline was rushing in horror and fear. My plan was just to stop and block traffic, and pick him up. But he had been killed by the time I got back to him three or four minutes later.
I failed that bird.
I hope he is circling over the lakes and trees he loves.
Back to learning about death from our dogs.
Dhalia’s possible terminal condition; my Pharaoh being the age he is; somewhere in there has come the recognition that we should embrace life yet also embrace our mortality; our death. As Leonardo da Vinci was reputed to have said, “While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.”
What does death mean; truly mean? I don’t know. All I know is that death is the end of a life. That our immortality is only an echo, a reverberation of who we were and what we stood for. Or no better put than by American lawyer, Albert Pike, who left these words before he died on April 2nd, 1891 (Yes, I looked it up!)
What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us;
what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.
Last thought from our dogs. Recall that yesterday, I wrote, “Pharaoh has been my greatest inspiration of the power of unconditional love; of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.”
Day in, day out, anyone with dogs in their lives know how often they offer us simple acts of love.
A life of simple acts of love – now that does give death a meaning!