Monday, June 27, 2005

A Dog's Life

In my profile here on blogspot I state that I'm an animal lover. I'm entirely convinced that in our human arrogance we often misunderstand and underestimate the sophistication of animals--particularly their emotional lives, which most scientists to this day dispute as an anthropomorphic sentimentality. I think it is anthropomorphic to think that animals do not have emotions, and that they are incapable of existing on the "high plain" of aware reality that we humans do. I can't understand why scientists insist on emotion as an entirely human component, when it seems so clear that animals exhibit behavior that can be as "emotional" as human behavior--jealous, whimsical, violent, loyal, randomly preferential, etc. it makes no sense to me that in an evolutionary continuum we might presume that only one animal species has developed this thing we know as "emotion."

About 7 years ago my mother rescued a Siberian Husky who was living in abominable circumstances. At that time my mother was newly divorced, working for just above minimum wage, and going through tough emotional and financial times. She and the dog, which she called Katie, became each other's lifelines. The dog's physical transformation under my mother's care was profound, and my mother's world became energized by routines driven by Katie. Rain or shine, the dog was walked twice a day. When Katie needed surgery to remove tumors in her breasts, my mother found ways to scrounge together the considerable amount of money. She bathed her, brushed her, talked to her like she was a friend. She and the husky shared identical icy-blue eyes. They became a happy fixture walking through their neighborhood. Katie's early neglect mandated a higher than average number of vet bills.

Katie gave my mother a sense of purpose, energy and family at a time when she had begun to feel the unfortunate societal obsolesence of divorced women in their 60s. I felt that as long as Katie had my mom's back, I didn't have to worry about her. Our 1,000+ mile distance was bridged by a black-nosed critter with piercing eyes who kept my mom safe and occupied when I couldn't.

I hadn't heard from my mother for nearly a week, despite several phone calls. I phoned her again today, almost irritated at what I presumed was her lack of urgency to return my calls. The moment she answered I knew something was very, very wrong. She didn't even have to say it, I knew the only thing that would render her unable to answer my inquiry would have to be something happening to Katie. Over the weekend the Husky, now 12 1/2, had become extremely ill, and the diagnosis was most likely an advanced stage of cancer with internal bleeding. Katie could not even sit up, and was in considerable pain. Mom made the decision to put her down.

That my mother's love for that dog was reciprocated could never be disputed. Those two neglected gals loved each other. I believe they both understood how they were important to the other, and I saw them flourish beneath the umbrella of their mutual need. I don't know what to do or say for my mother, because she has lost a dear friend--and heartfelt words fall like platitudes. But I do know this, it is arrogant to assume that what we percieve as love from an animal is just some biologically-based mannerism, or imitation of behavior adopted to ensure a meal. Katie and my mom were buddies, and if this thing we describe as a soul is our essence, Katie is wafting away into the universal on waves of pure love.


At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

that is one of the best things you have ever written.

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Mindy said...

Oh :(

A lovely piece, Pamela. I hope your mother gets through this ok.

At 9:25 PM, Blogger Emily said...

I'm sorry for your mother's loss. Sounds like a terrific animal.

At 12:20 AM, Blogger Pamela said...

Thank you, to all who e-mailed or posted here with well wishes for my mother.

It has been a rough week for her, but the relationships she forged (with Katie as conduit) were given an opportunity to grow wings. She got a raise at work, and cards, letters, and even flowers, all which I believe helped my mother to realize the impact she has on others.

Next assignment: Write about how wonderful and giving my mother is.

At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Sandy said...

Pam, I know your mom is one tough cookie and will get through this but I, too, am sorry for her loss. I look forward to reading your piece about your mom after hearing so much about her.

Katie was a beautiful dog!


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