Friday, April 29, 2005

The Club.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket --safe, dark, motionless, airless-- it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.
CS Lewis

One of the lessons I've learned blogging is that it's hard not to connect with someone pouring out their honest feelings and sharing personal details of their lives. I believe that it's a lot easier to vilify or scorn someone if you cannot picture them as people who love and laugh and hope.

I've spent some time recently at lately and find myself really liking the guy. For those of you who are drawing a blank of the name he was the lead in Stand By Me (the guy with the leech on his tallywacker!) and was Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Seeing his blog listed as very popular, I initially checked it out for the curiousity value. What I discovered was he is a self-proclaimed geek and a pretty decent human being. And I now stop by every few days.

Now this guy has got a lot of grief over the years because Wesley was not a fan favorite. A friend of mine pointed out that the problem is that the writers, while talented, could not pull off an intelligent teen without making him a condescending know-it-all. The problem is that many have confused the character with the actor. I suppose, as a fan of TNG, I was one of those people. (If I admit to anymore nerd interests I'll be endangering my super groovy hipster image.) Mea Culpa!

What I like about Wil is that the man loves his pets. And is not afraid to cry when he loses one. Unfortunately he's lost 2 cats in fairly close succession. As someone who has lost her share of pets, as well as someone who worked with many grieving pet owners my heart goes out to him for his recent losses.

I don't know how many times at the shelter I saw people look at me with bloodshot eyes as I did intakes on their pets and asked did they want to be present. While families began to grieve, life went on around us--people cooed at puppies, staff members joked, adoptions were completed, and people turned in animals for both valid and ridiculous reasons.

And then, if they wanted to be present, I would lead them back to euthanasia; a long slow labored walk for animal and human. We all knew the owners had every right to be present, but whomever was doing the euth often hated it--the added pressure to have everything go smoothly, the knowledge that it is easier to put an animal to sleep when you don't have to think about how much they meant to a family, and the effort to do your job and not just comfort the animal, but also the people.

Then the inevitable question ... "Have you ever been present before?" ... and the explanation that it would be fast and painless, that there might be moans or muscle twitches after the pet was gone, that we would confirm they were truly gone, that one of us would gently restrain the pet for the safety of the animal and the tech, but that they were welcome to gather round and comfort their animal. And we were always ready to move the tissues within easy reach.

Often the women were more stoic, while the man sobbed. It was somehow harder when the men cried--mostly because you could count on them apologizing for not being...what? More manly in the face of losing a member of their family? We would tell them we understood, but they never seemed to be any less embarrassed.

My husband once rushed one of our dogs in to the clinic portion on a day I was working. We made the decision it was his time, and I paged the euth tech I trusted the most. Unfortunately I was sobbing when I did it and that reverberated throughout the building. Some of my co-workers imitated that page for weeks. I understood--we all developed thick-skin and gallows humor to survive.

It was tougher when the euth request was for a Sheltie, or even a Collie, because it was like looking at one of my own. There was nothing to say to the people--it was not the time to bond over the love of the same breed.

But afterward, after our grief has settled, pet owners who've lot an animal are bonded in that loss. After all, who hasn't lost a pet and heard words to the effect of, "It was just an animal"? Those of us who've allowed them into our hearts, let them sleep next to our children, given them presents under the Christmas tree, and allowed them to see us at our best and out worst are unified with one another by the truth...

They were much more than just an animal...and our lives were richer for having had them with us for a while.

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