Wednesday, February 4, 2015

An Open Letter to our Dachshund Dottie

(Photo: A dozing Dottie, pre-injury).

When Michelle called from the vet to tell me your back legs were paralyzed, my inclination was to have the vet put you to sleep.

In those few moments, I knew we’d never see you running in the back yard again. Chasing after birds. Chasing after your sister Daisy. Catch-all phrases like “quality of life” formed in my head, ready to drop out as a justification.

Then another thought that crowded everything else out: “How big is your heart?”

It’s easy to love when things are going well. When the only concern is the pee spots on the downstairs carpet or making sure you’ve got your sweater on when you go out in the snow.
But when things went bad – why was my first inclination to end it?

That’s the world we live in now. If something’s broke, we don’t bother trying to fix it. Even if it’s obsolete but still working, we replace it and move on, leaving the old stuff we once thought useful to rot as junk in some forgotten box.

But this is life we’re talking about. And I thought about ending it.

Because it would be easier. Easier for me. That quality of life? Maybe it’s my quality of life. Because for the easy way out, you’d have no qualities of life at all.

My wife’s heart is naturally bigger than mine. She talked me into steroid treatments and acupuncture for you – not knowing what quality of life treatment would bring you, just knowing you deserved better than the Big Sleep. You deserved for us to try a chance because you are loved, even if that love now comes with a potentially higher price.

She bought the training pads for you to pee on when you get excited to see me come through the door but can’t run up to me like Daisy does, like you always did. When I reach over to you in your bed at night to offer a few comforting strokes as you fidget, it’s her hand I most often contact in the dark in search for your fuzzy head.

How big is your heart, the voice in my head asked.

Thanks to a little wiener dog, it’s getting bigger.

We don’t know if you’ll walk again – though seeing you occasionally wag your tail, twitch a foot, and, yes, go to the bathroom, is comforting. We tell Daisy as she watches, as she comes by with a toy she’d love you to play with, that she can’t take walking for granted. And I remind myself I can’t take life for granted, even though my first thought was to end yours to make mine easier.

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