June 29, 2009

Habemus Muttemus

Routine is valued in times of stress, as was experienced when, apropos of nothing we carried our dog on a bedsheet from an upstairs room this week. His time had come. The ticker tocked. The last sand granule in the hourglass had fallen. It was very sad.

Lots of reminders during the week; scriptural mentions of the “good Shepherd”, a locution that previously never recalled those of the German variety. All the sewn-in daily traditions were sundered, even those such as the touching way he barked outrageously when I ran by the front door in his agedness - why did I not take him on the run too? he barked. I thought, but did not tell him, that he was too old now and could not keep up. I preferred to leave him his illusions of youthful grandeur. So now to run by an empty front door was an almost physical pain even while knowing the Church teaches us to direct our greatest sympathy to humans, not animals. The experience seemed to conflict head and heart: heart telling me that this God-made creature had interwoven himself into our lives, head telling me to understand that the big danger these days is moving animals too far up the hierarchy, such as a substitute for children.


My sense is that God likes artful coincidences since they bolster the faith of those already with faith without compelling or forcing it on those who don't. (Then it wouldn't be faith, after all, but knowledge.)

For example, witness the case today in which we go to the animal shelter and boldly choose a dog already 46 in human years and yet we do so because...well, I'll get into that, but the artful coincidence is that we got home and found in the paperwork the dog's birthday also happens to be my own, June 22.

Another example is how my wife saw a rainbow shortly after our dog's death, after being teased for years by her son concerning the "rainbow bridge".

And then the Mass readings Sunday caught my eye: "God did not make death...He fashioned all things that they might have being; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is not a destructive drug among them."

Our sister-in-law's dog, who'd come to visit us, felt a wave of grief in my wife and cried in telepathic sympathy.

I take from all of this that God cares about what affects us.

So we headed to the Humane society on Sunday and I was trying to work up feeling for Great Dane mix who was a year and a half old but who seemed a bit fragile. They call the breed "heart-breakers" for their short lives and to start off 1.5 years in the hole seemed a lot.

There was another dog there, a shepherd mix named Buddy, purportedly 3 years old which to me was pretty much a deal-killer. My internal pain-minimizer strategizer said that we should buy a young dog, even a puppy, and thus put off the inevitable as long as possible. It's perhaps an accountant's sensibility, somewhat reminiscent of economist Paul Krugman's experation (of which I am sympathetic) at the overkill concerning the Michael Jackson coverage. "Doesn't this country know it has bigger problems?" he asks.

But one of the things I love about my wife is her capacity for optimism which I, as a pessimist, tend to regard as a capacity for self-delusion. Specifically in this case the belief that the next dog death will be easier. So here we are at the Humane society and we soon learn that Buddy, whom we have our heart set on, is six years old. My head immediately said "no". I haven't felt such cognitive dissonance since that Cops episode when the hot young girl turned out to be a guy in drag.

Like a game of chicken, neither Steph or I blinked. I figured if she can take the pain again so soon then so can I, especially since she suffered more pain. Thus pride goeth before the fall. Call it our own version of M.A.D. - mutually assured destruction.

It was irrational but then love is irrational to the self-protective. What is rational, after all, about creating creatures who you know ahead of time will literally crucify you? Ah but it is rational if rationality is defined as throwing away your life in order to save it. God defines rationality...and love.

Steph is the real deal when it comes to animal welfare that I think she was looking at it more dog-centrically. I was looking for the dog to minimize our pain, she was looking for a dog to minimize its. And she thought he wouldn't be adopted due to his age and shortly euthanized. (That he wasn't netured yet seemed to suggest a lack of confidence in his adoptability by the humane society.)

So, in the immortal words of Marty Brennaman, "it is what it is". Or, to paraphrase a famous phrase, Habemus Muttemus.


William Luse said...

"she was looking for a dog to minimize its"

good woman, don't you think?

TS said...

Indeed. It's true in this case that she's my better half.

Enbrethiliel said...


Or "Habemus Muttam"? =)

I'm an awful pessimist, too, and would have gone for a puppy. Buddy is a lucky dog.

mrsdarwin said...

Sympathy for your loss; joy for your gain.