Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Why Dogs have Shorter Lives

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish
Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their
little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for
a miracle. I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the
family there were no miracles left for Belker, and offered to perform the
euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made
arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for the
four-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane
might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family
surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last
time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few
minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept
Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together
for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that
animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why." Startled, we
all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never
heard a more comforting explanation. He said, "People are born so that they
can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and
being nice, right?" The four-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know
how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.

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