“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
― Mark Twain
Mark Twain was no theologian, nor had he ever pretended to be. His lifelong focus was human behavior, and that’s why this quote resonates at this address — especially on days like this past Monday.
We take animals into our lives as pets for the companionship they offer. We assign them human names and add them as part of the family. How we treat them, through neglect or with compassion, reflects our own humanity.
We usually think of their quirks and behaviors in human terms – in having a personality – a practice linked to how we bond with them, and how they bond to us.
Chloe was a particularly amusing pet. Purchased as a puppy — with some money left my wife by her mother — she was introduced to the late, great Ozzie, the golden retriever. Chloe took to him, the grandchildren, and her new environs immediately. Continuously active, she earned the title “frenetic.”
She was no fan of thunderstorms, the dark, the wind, and had many odd quirks; the longer she was with us, the less odd they seemed.
She loved trips in the motorhome but almost always spit-up while riding in a car. She was a pal to my Dad while he lived with us and indicated confusion for a while after he passed away.
But to think of pets as having personalities is both unfair to the animals and a diminution of our own nature: they are not persons because they can “reason” only regarding the basics. They should be held to no greater expectation.
We humans are obliged to far more loftier things. That is the merit that Twain admonishes us about.
Because of our nature, we easily provide the comforts to our pets in trade for the companionship they bring. And then we’re obliged to do the hard things, such as nursing them during irreversible decline.
After six weeks of marked decline, the time for the hardest thing had come for us and Chloe.
Veterinarians usually offer the option to leave a pet before the final moment. That’s never been an option we could take, for this is the time in the life of a pet when the willful act of compassion by those responsible for them is most needed. We leave it to heaven to determine whether compelled acts are meritorious.
She went without distress, head stroked and cradled by family; comfortably and quickly. We are left with a loss unique to pet owners but with a wealth of pleasing memories.
Chloe, the frenetic Jack Russell. Gone at age 12.
Dan Flathers is a Toms Brook resident.