Our dog Sadie is dying right now.
She's very old... over a hundred years old in dog years... so I've watched her getting older, slower, and more frail all summer, and I've known that she would die soon. But still... I'm really sad. About a week ago I sat beside her and brushed her coat for a long time, talking to her, stroking her head. I brushed, and she licked my arm, and I was sad because I knew she'd die soon. But now she really is dying, and she can't even get up anymore. We're having her put to sleep tomorrow. I'm really sad. She's a part of so many of my childhood memories... I love Sadie, I really do. She's been a good dog. Today I've been lifting her head so she can drink her water. She has the softest, sweetest, prettiest head of any dog in the world. I love to stroke the top of her head, between her soft black ears.
A conversation I had with a friend about a week ago (before I even knew that she would die this soon) has helped me somewhat; otherwise, I think I would feel more badly than I do about having her put to sleep. I asked him what is I suppose a weird question: why is it that euthanasia is a horrible thing for people, but it's okay to put animals to sleep? Maybe the answer is obvious, maybe it's a silly question, but I just wanted to be sure, you know? So I asked him what he thought about this. Because I was worried that Sadie was or would soon be in pain, and I didn't want that for her, but I don't think it's okay to put elderly or terminally ill people out of their pain. So I needed to think about it. And Joel said, "I think the difference might be that human souls continue on after death, and as such, living through a painful experience could benefit the person and those around them, whereas with an animal, it will just be in pain longer."
I had never thought of that. It made a lot of sense to me. I don't know what to think about souls, though. There really isn't Biblical support or anything for the souls of animals enduring past death, and I can't imagine snakes and mosquitos and beetles in Heaven, but... it's Sadie's soul that animates her, that puts the shine behind her dark eyes, and makes her alive... can it really just slip away and be gone, forever? Can something-ness turn into nothing-ness? Will there be animals on the New Earth?
I wish old age could be a nicer thing. Many aspects of it probably are nice, but the frailty of the body failing in old age isn't nice, and it's sad for those who love that person, too. And while probably less so, it's sad with animals, too.