Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year old German Shepherd named Duke. The dog’s owners, Mike, his wife, Barbara, and their little girl, Megan, were all very attached to Duke and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Duke and found he was dying. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Duke and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Mike and Barbara told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Megan to observe the procedure. They felt as though Megan might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Duke’s family surrounded him. Megan seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that i wondered if she understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Duke slipped peacefully away.
The little girl seemed to accept Duke’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Duke’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Megan, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to her. What came out of her mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.
She said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.
Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:
- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
- Take naps.
- Stretch before rising.
- Run, romp, and play daily.
- Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
- Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
- On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
- On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
- When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
- Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
- Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.
- Be loyal. Never pretend to be something you’re not.
- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by.