Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Being Frank About Our Pets

 Now that the election is over, let us turn to real life and death issues.
I opened Facebook this week to read this entry: 
"Megan has cancer and the doctor says she has six months to live if we don't have surgery immediately." 
"OMG!"  I thought in Facebook terms. ("Ohmigosh!") I
Wow! A child afflicted with cancer. How horrible! 
Reading on I learned "Megan" was the family pet. (The names have been changed to protect the identity of the dog. We wouldn't want her to be embarrassed.) If you are a pet owner, you might know cancer can affect those loved ones, too. 
Our Butterball developed cancer, received surgery, lived a short while and then had to be put to sleep. 
Butterball was not our Thanksgiving dinner but our pet Poodle and I did not name him. 
He was named by his previous owner who gave him to us because the dog was malformed. One of his testicles was up inside his body instead of hanging in a manly way. The owner wanted dogs to enter in shows and that "problem" disqualified Butterball. It makes you wonder what the judges of Poodle shows are looking at.
Butterball went blind and had been in pain for a while when the vet said the best option was to put him out of his misery and my wife scheduled the day it was to be done. 
Butterball (or simply "Butt" as we called him most of the time) was truly a member of our family. The first year we had him, he played in the snow with us until I noticed how red his little legs were getting. He even went with us to Grandpa's house and Grandpa doesn't like dogs. 
So, it was an emotional time as the awful day approached. 
I was working the night before we were to take Butterball to the vet's office. My commute home from the office took about an hour. On the way home I tried not to think about our friendly pooch on my drive home through country roads long after dark.
About five miles from home, someone's dog ran into the road and I couldn't avoid hitting the animal. It was late at night, there were no nearby houses and I was distraught. 
I started thinking about Butterball and wondered what I could do for the dog I hit. I stopped but I couldn't find him. I turned the car around and shown my lights down that lonely stretch of state highway. Apparently the dog had crawled off into the tall weeds along the road but I could hear no whimpering and could see no bloody trail on the road. There were no nearby houses with lights on that would indicate someone had let the animal out of the house to do its business. 
So, I got back into my car and continued home, upset about injuring or killing someone else's beloved pet while our own Butterball was going to be put to sleep the next day. 
I might have imagined the accident but my car was damaged by the impact and I decided to stop at the nearest police station and report the accident. 
Before I could get to the next town, the image of a woman talking on a cell phone flashed into my view. She was walking down the edge of the road, paying no attention to oncoming traffic. I swerved to miss her. 
I nearly stopped the car to verbally rip her apart. What did she think she was going? Did she want to suffer the same fate as the pooch up the road? 
But I drove on and reported the accident at the sheriff's office. 
Now it was after midnight and later than I had anticipated. I realized my wife would probably wonder had delayed me. 
At home, I told her briefly about the dog and the woman before we went to bed for a few hours of fitful sleep before taking Butterball into the vet. 
But the drama was not over. There was a preparatory shot for pain before the one that would stop the dog's heart, we were told. 
Linda and I were in the room when the vet attempted to give the first injection. Unfortunately, it put the dog into extreme pain and he began screaming in agony. 
The doctor seemed to panic. He threw down the needle and tried another shot. 
"Give him the final shot!" I yelled at the doctor, furious at the whole situation. 
Eventually, our poor, blind, Butterball was out of his misery. Outside the vet's office, Linda and I held each other and cried. 
So, yes, I do sympathize with my Facebook friend. 
I won't remotely suggest tragedy of a pet with cancer can be compared to a human with the disease. But we do love our animals, don't we?
Now, we have a cat we would give away in a heartbeat, but that's another matter. 

Frank Phillips is a freelance writer. His blog can be found at frankphillips.blogspot.com. He can be e-mailed at frank.phillips@gmail.com