A dog’s life

In deciding how far to go to save a pet with health problems, people fall on two sides – those who’d do whatever it takes, pay staggering bills, take leaves from their jobs, and those who see a broken animal as a costly nuisance, something that can be replaced…What role does suffering and quality of life play? And how do you navigate it when you’re in the middle of an emergency, swamped by uncertainty and unknowns? … “To look into [a dog’s] eyes and watch the lights go out as they go to sleep, it’s so heartbreaking I can’t imagine anybody apart from the toughest people can do that without being seriously affected. So the decision becomes let’s not do it, let’s give healing a chance.”

Scout came into my life in the middle of a January night in the parking lot of a Super 8 near Rochester, N.Y. A rescue worker plucked all 11 pounds and 12 weeks of her from a crate on the back of a truck and slipped her into my arms. It was raining and I tucked her inside my pea coat. She snuffled my neck. You’re home, I whispered. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, so was I…

I found her on the rescue website Petfinder and it really was love at first sight.  Her face was gentle and curious, with old-soul eyes. She had four white paws and a blaze of white the shape of Texas on her chest. In the litter’s adoption video, she was the one always at the bottom of the pile.

I’d wanted a Lab mixed with something smart and sweet and stumbled on a litter of Lab/Border collie pups in Mt. Airy, N.C., in December, 2015. The rescue pulled dogs from high kill shelters and adopted them to the northeast United States and Canada, employing a truck to deliver dogs to their new families every two weeks.

I hadn’t planned on getting a puppy. I’d never felt brave enough to try to take care of something that required so much attention. But I had wanted a dog of my own for as long as I can remember. I imagined that having a dog would be a good antidote to depression; it would get me out of my own head, serve as an anchor outside of work and make me feel safe. A dog would push me out of the house and into the world, and it would keep me home, too, when it was better to be there.

With Scout, I had something to focus on other than myself. Housebreaking alone was a full time job. On weekends, I was up by seven o’clock, because no one can sleep with the Looming Dog Alarm Clock. I made small talk with strangers, as long as they had a dog. I stayed in more at night, busy with belly rubs, teaching tricks and playing tug of war. Everything was nicer with her around. Reading books and watching movies. Sleeping. Walking. She followed me everywhere. Training her made me feel good at something. She was the best comfort and company, a mostly serious dog full of concern, unless there were squirrels to be chased, a ball to be thrown or a lake to be conquered. She made me laugh every day.

Love does find you.

~ Shawna Richer, from “A dog’s life: What would I sacrifice for the animal I love? (The Global and Mail, December 15, 2018)


  1. Thanks, DK…nothing better than starting your day with a good cry. But it was worth it and a good reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Neja from Slovenia says:

    Yes, “Everything was nicer with him around …” the first paragraph made me cry. On friday I had to “put asleep” our 8 year old vizsla … so far the hardest thing I had to do. I fall in the first category – no matter the money, but in the end you have to think on your best friend not yourself. We did everything but it still was not enough…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. what a beautiful piece and a feeling that those who have lived it will clearly understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Liked by 2 people

  5. They live on in our hearts for ever… and there is always room for one more 💕

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    I totally get this … “To look into a dog’s eyes and watch the lights go out as they go to sleep, it’s so heartbreaking I can’t imagine anybody apart from the toughest people can do that without being seriously affected. So the decision becomes let’s not do it, let’s give healing a chance.”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Having recently said goodbye to my sister’s beloved 11 year old Golden Retriever, Chloe, after a sudden serious illness, and along with the pain of losing so many beloved pets, the tears come easily. I wouldn’t have it any other way. My cats are much better at life than I am, and I need their need. To be needed is a gift, to be loved is life’s biggest joy and blessing. Thanks, as always, David.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Zeke is now 9 and I don’t even want to think of the day when…
    Because spending oodles of money to extend their lives is not really about them, is it? If they are to be pain-free and happy, that’s one thing; if it’s just because you can’t let go, it’s not.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Agree Dale. That’s why we took the option that we did with our Zeke. As to your Zeke, it’s 9 going to 19! He still looks young and fresh!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dale, we had to put our dachsie to sleep when she was 18!!!! It’s the hardest thing to do and returning with an empty leash is just heartbreaking. We all three were together and when we came home without our little one, the neighbours saw us coming and also began to cry…. But we should firstly think of the good of our pet and not of us – and we all should get a new one asap…. when our ‘old’ sweeties go to pet heaven! Only I couldn’t…. and I can’t await the day I’ll be able to have aother one – once I’ll be back in Switzerland AND having found a flat where I’m permitted to have a dog (that’s a MAJOR problem in CH – houseowners don’t like pets)

      Liked by 2 people

      • We had an old chihuahua/fox terrier mix, named Juanita ;-). She had to be put down at about 18-19, too. She was sorely missed. I didn’t live at home any more but still… too quiet when we went to visit the folks!
        I don’t want to think of that day just yet for Zeke.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Pets are wonderful and definitely part of the family. We’ve taken three cats down. Each was a depressing experience – on the other hand, I still think it was the right thing to do as they had suffered enough. Yes, it’s a convenience; but emotionally draining. Cheers to the joys that Scout has provided.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Heart. Melting. My pack is aging…Lola is 10 and Beau is 7. The thought of life without either of them brings a lump to my throat and an ache to my heart that crushes. These sweet creatures give back whatever love they receive tenfold. Will never be without a dog, and also tell myself that I will never love the attachment I feel more than the dear soul I feel it for…Knowing when to say goodbye–one of the greatest trials of that relationship…..

    Liked by 2 people

  11. So much joy and companionship and so much potential heartbreak in the same beautiful package. Tears…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Agree with all your faithful friends commenting here. I was already tearing up just seeing that photo – and then those eyes – and the words…. Help, I can’t see the keyboard any longer!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The photo is beautiful, she has breath taking eyes. Without a dog a life can be empty.

    Liked by 2 people

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