I don't want to feel your pain (and you can have mine!)

Not only is feeling not the same thing as thinking, feeling is more powerful than thinking because it is able to defeat thought itself.

A perfect example is the struggle I have been having over having to kill my dog, poor suffering old Puff.

That's right; kill. A decidedly more malevolent sounding word than the nice expressions we have like "putting down," "putting to sleep," "euthanasia," "death with dignity," "a good death," whatever.

I can't shake this feeling -- and it is a feeling -- that I am doing something awful by taking away the one thing that means so much to Puff, and which he doesn't even know I will be taking away. Nor can I shake the feeling that I didn't do something more to save him. Sure, everyone will tell me what my vet just told me -- that I did way more than I or anyone could have or should have, that most people wouldn't have spent months nursing a dog unable to walk on his hind legs since February (and whose front legs are now almost useless too).

I can tell myself these things, and I know rationally -- for a fact and "to a 'T'" -- that they are the truth. But that's just rational thought.

And no rational thought can change the damned feeling. I guess I can rationalize away the feeling itself with the platitude that "feelings are what make us human," that you could program a computer to diagnose vital signs and know when it's time for the fatal shot, but that the horrible, uncontrollable feelings are part of the misery that's good for us.

Ah, yes, suffering is good, say the moralists. So it is right that I should suffer. Just as it would be wrong to prolong or extend the dog's life or a human life.

Moralists of all stripes are fond of injecting their own emotions into someone else's human suffering in the hope that they can lead the sufferer to greater heights of whatever nightmarish "ism" they're ultimately promoting in the name of whatever they consider to be the Ultimate Good. I don't need them now -- and for the simple, selfish reason that they cannot restore my dog's health.

The memories I have of every death I've ever been with (I lost count of the exact number but it's a lot) are activated by this, of course. The psychiatric choruses would doubtless call my current state a form of "post traumatic stress" and offer me meds. What they offer me was worthless then and worthless now, because just as they couldn't save my friends in the 1980s, they can't save my dog now.

If it sounds hopeless, that might be because it is. I have to go through this with Puff. Fortunately, I have found a vet who will make a house call, so I'll be spared the agony of the "last drive in the car" type of bullshit.

In the old days, I could turn my feelings off with substances. That was better, even though the substances did nothing to stop the events which triggered the feelings. Now I just suffer. More moral that way. Builds lots of character.

Being human sure sucks.

posted by Eric on 06.08.05 at 04:07 PM


Eric --

Having had to make this decision last year, my husband and I know it's agonizing, and I wish there were some way we could ease your pain.

This poem won't help now, but maybe it will later on.

You and Puff are in my prayers.

Ann Wilson   ·  June 8, 2005 5:36 PM

Really nice of you. Thanks. I'm burying Puff with my mom, who loved him.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 8, 2005 6:06 PM

We had to do the same thing to our Fido just three weeks ago. Our knowledge of his doom hung over us for six months since his condition was diagnosed, and even though we know it was for the best, we're living with the consequences as well. It was a hard but necessary decision.

Bill Peschel   ·  June 8, 2005 6:41 PM

You have my sympathy. A great friend, dog, human, whatever, is a great friend. And love is love. All pets are special, supposedly, but Puff sounds like one of the truly special ones- can't be replaced- only remembered thankfully, and mourned for quite a long time. If it is any consolation- it is obvious to me you loved him and treated him the way such animals deserve to be loved and treated.

Harkonnendog   ·  June 8, 2005 6:58 PM

Thinking of you, Eric.

Sean Kinsell   ·  June 9, 2005 1:21 AM

Tragic. Puff was a good, loyal, noble dog, worthy of a good, loyal, noble man like yourself. Good-bye, Puff. We will miss you.

Thanks everyone.

Puff doesn't know that he's saying goodbye; only I know it. It will happen soon.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 9, 2005 9:43 AM

Struggling with the same thing for different reasons - if we don't rehome Spike soon, he's got about two months to live. As you said, he doesn't know it - but you do, and you ache with it.

Know that you have been the best and most loyal friend that Puff could ever have had, and in suffering yourself, you take suffering away that he would have had to endure. He will not know anything but that his best friend was there when he went to sleep.

'xcuse me, I have to stop crying at work now.

Jen   ·  June 9, 2005 10:21 AM

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