For the second night in a row, Sammy cried before falling asleep. We could see the pain in his brown eyes and in his soft, furry face. We thought the weekend might have been his last. He’s a 100-pound dog who had a rough start and is now going on 13 years old, with a lifetime of various health problems. And now, it seemed, the decision was ours as to whether he would carry on or go on without us. There is nothing easy in making that decision — particularly with a dog like Sammy.
I’m generally not fond of the little graphics that people endlessly post on Facebook, but a few have caught my eye in recent days. One was a Charles Schulz cartoon (or a clever fake), with Charlie Brown and Snoopy sitting on the end of a dock. The viewer’s perspective is from behind. Charlie Brown says, “Snoopy, we will both die someday,” to which Snoopy replies, “But on every other day we won’t.”
Despite that Snoopy missed the point, he made a great one as an aside: Live now.
Many years before, American actor and icon James Dean said much the same thing. Dean, who would have turned 85 years old on Monday, is quoted as having once said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
Those are powerful words coming from a man who spent a mere 24 years on this planet. And more, it seemed he followed them.
Another Facebook graphic followed the death of astronaut Edgar Mitchell. Mitchell was among only 12 men to have ever walked on the moon. He passed away at the age of 85 in West Palm Beach on Feb. 4. The meme associated with him was longer than his quote, or, perhaps, it was an expansion of his quote, but the words definitely attributable to him are apt, even without the extension. His quote is about standing on the moon and looking back 250,000 miles towards Earth:
“You develop an instant global consciousness, people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics looks so petty.”
The social media extension of the quote involved him dragging the “SOBs out a quarter of a million miles to see it and understand that for themselves.”
Certainly even the most jaded could gain a new perspective from the surface of the moon but space travel isn’t necessary to see it.
With an election coming up in nine months, as a public we get to experience pettiness, petulance, arrogance and greed simply by tuning into or logging into the daily news. Sometimes it seems as though our nation is destined to be led, beginning next January, by someone who spilled out of a clown car of psychopaths who have somehow convinced themselves that they are immortal and the most righteous among us. It’s probably a good thing that none of them live in glass houses.
But none of that matters to Sammy. His is not a world of pettiness or arrogance. Dogs have seemingly been graced with the gift of living entirely in the moment. Yesterday is gone and forgotten, tomorrow hasn’t happened and thus doesn’t warrant a thought. Right now, today, this moment is what matters. And on that night, like the night before, he hurt. He was tired.
Over his life, he has had doctors, specialists and others chiming in about what may or may not work, but mostly what wouldn’t work. Dr. Mike Waldy of Ruskin Animal Hospital has been there for the past many years. He is a caring man; the entire staff is incredibly caring, yet the question of life or death is up to Sammy and us. Doctors don’t have magic wands but Dr. Waldy’s compassionate words were thoughtful, well spoken and helpful to us. We’ve tried to give Sammy a good and happy life. He has certainly helped to make ours happier.
I can understand pettiness, anger and the arrogance. Despite our incredible wealth and blessings, ours is an increasingly uncomfortable nation and world in many ways. Several polls have shown that Americans no longer necessarily believe that better days await in the future. We have been beaten down psychologically, and we seem to be getting tired, too. Unlike Sammy, we do worry about tomorrow.
I don’t believe our best days are behind us, although we are facing historical, monumental problems, so naturally we have reason for worry. But I think we could also focus a little more on the present, on the important things in our lives right now. I think we could be more like Sammy.
Sammy woke up on Saturday morning and the pain was gone from his eyes. He’s still old, he still can’t walk far by himself but that’s why he has us. We can help him walk from his bed in our bedroom to his bed in our living room. We can carry him if needed. He would do the same for us if he could. He has always been there for us. Sure, he sleeps a lot but, for now, in this moment, the cries are gone, and he is Sammy again. He loves his family, his dog bed, his pillow, and he still wants to play in a gentle way —and that’s really all that matters to him right now. Sammy and I have grown old together. He’s a good boy.
Someday, perhaps soon, we will call Lap of Love, a veterinary service founded in the Tampa area by a wonderful woman named Dr. Dani McVety. On that day, a highly empathic and caring veterinarian will come to our home and Sammy will leave us, with his head on his beloved pillow while we tearfully stroke his soft fur and tell him, “We love you.” Someday he will die, as will I, as will all of us, but on every other day he won’t.
On this day, he won’t.
I’m just going to enjoy being in this moment with him. He seems to like that, too. He seems to like that I’m learning.