Three days ago we had to put our adored eleven year old dog to sleep. The sorrow has been immense. Only two days before that we found out that he had lots of cancer including all through his lungs. He had slowed down a bit and had become finicky about eating in the last couple of weeks. But we had no idea the extent of his illness. As soon as he had the chest xray and ultrasound showing us all the tumors, it was as if now that we knew, he could give in to it. In two days, he deteriorated so fast that we had no choice but to end his struggle. It was so hard for him to breathe that he resisted lying down for hours at a time.
I have only lived without a dog for a couple of years of my life when I was in college and right after. Dogs have been an essential part of my life and I have gone through many losses. One might, and many do say, “I don’t want to get so attached just to go through the grief of losing something I love.” I think many people don’t have animals or even children for that very reason. To me it would be like saying to my children, “Please don’t come home for visits because it’s too hard to say goodbye each time.”
Every time I came home or anyone arrived at our house, we would be greeted by Tucker bringing a shoe. The downside was shoes all over the house—pairs broken up, the hunt for a missing shoe—but the delight in the gift (even though he never handed the shoe over)
Attachment to something or someone loved involves loss and grief. But the price of no loss, is no joy. Is it worth it? The human condition requires attachment. How can we justify the grief and loss we inevitably experience? “Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all,” so they say. Life is about experiencing a range of emotions—positive and negative. How can we know happiness without sadness, kindness without cruelty, success without failure, joy without sorrow, love without loss?