Sunday, December 21, 2008

A good death

After greeting me at the airport thursday night, my daughter shared sad news. Kenya, the 130 lb. Rhodesian Ridgeback (dog) whom she had raised from a puppy was in failing health. She had decided to put her down, the next day.

When we arrived at her home. I could see that it was true. Kenya had no strength in her back legs. She could not walk without assistance. It was impossible for her to go outdoors to relieve herself unaided. Walking, with assistance, was painful. Cancerous tumors, in remission for two years, had grown. Climbing up on a bed or couch to snuggle (Kenya may have been the world’s largest lap dog) was out of the question. To provide comfort her my daughter, I and her boy friend took turns snuggling with her on the doggie bed. My daughter slept with her most of the night.

Our appointment at the vets was at 11:30. We spent most of the morning with Kenya, snuggling, helping her to go outside and plying her with favorite treats. Despite the ravages of old age and disease, Kenya had not lost her appetite or her good humor. At 11, we helped her into the back of a Honda element and began Kenya’s last journey. She had always loved to ride and was in good spirits, despite occasional twinges of pain.

The veterinarian's office was the friendliest I have ever seen. The examining rooms were cozy, decorated with straw furniture and painted in bright colors. The doctor, an attractive woman in her mid thirties, was warm, understanding and compassionate. She had taken care of Kenya for several years. She provided some favorite treats, explained the process and asked my daughter to confirm her decision. Then she left so we could spend a few minutes more with our friend. Kenya lay on her blanket, resting peacefully.

The doctor returned with a sedative and the IV that would administer an overdose of barbiturates. Kenya lay peacefully after enjoying one or two final treats. The process was over in a few minutes. A stethoscope confirmed that her heart had stopped. The doctor left and we spent a few minutes more in the cozy room with Kenya’s still body. She seemed peacefully asleep. Then we went out to lunch and celebrated a good life, well lived.
The next day my daughter and her friend buried Kenya’s body in a secluded garden spot. I went for a long bicycle ride on the Pinellas trail, stopping for lunch on the way. When I returned home, a florist was making a delivery. The veterinarian's office had sent flowers and a note of sympathy.

When I die, I pray that I, too, can have a good death. Like Kenya’s.



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