The “Easy” Way Out?

Today is Samson’s birthday.

In a couple of weeks, it will be a year since we put him down.  This random combination of thoughts came to me last week when a certain new item caught my eye.

Gloria Taylor is a British Columbian woman who lives with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). She was the face of five plaintiffs who went to the Supreme Court to strike down the ban on assisted suicide in that province. The grounds were that the ban discriminated against the disabled because, get this, they cannot commit suicide on their own.

The argument was that an able-bodied individual could end their own life without assistance. For those dealing with terminal conditions, there comes a point in time when this is no longer an option. It’s usually at this later stage that the idea of suicide is much more appealing than the years, months, weeks, days, the individual has left as a prisoner of their own bodies.

Now I toyed with the idea of not writing this column, simply because it falls under one of those contentious issues, like abortion, religion and hockey. But I feel strongly about this myself and to be honest, I was excited when I heard the news.

When Samson was suffering, we could tell. It was as obvious as if he could verbalize the pain he was in. Most people would say they would not allow an animal to suffer, they would have the “put to sleep.”

I have watched loved ones die. I have heard some of them wish for death to come. I have heard of people whose family members have asked them to help them bring their end to them. How is ok for a dog to be euthanized, but I couldn’t do it for a family member?

To be fair, there are differences between euthanasia and assisted suicide.

1. Euthanasia –

: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured

individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for

reasons of mercy. The word is Greek and means “easy death.”

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This can be a simple as someone withholding care or taking part

in the act of ending someone’s life. Notice how people and animals are lumped

together?

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2. Assisted Suicide –

: suicide committed by someone with assistance from another person;

especially : physician-assisted suicide

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This is a specific plan where a doctor provides the means for a person to administer

drugs or an act that will allow the individual to end their own life. Something

they could not otherwise do on their own.

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Thank you Merriam-Webster.

Immediately the battle cries were out for an appeal of this decision.

How can we allow these people who have suffered so much the “easy” way out???

Well I’ve got a thought for you. If you are saying the Court will not allow

anyone to take part in an action that will result in the death of another person, then they better get a lot more vigilant about methamphetamine dealers and producers, because THAT, my friend, is how a lot more people are going to die at the hand of another person.

It’s not like I don’t have a grasp on the concept of suicide. It has come close enough to me to know that there are times when I can see it is not the right option. There is pain and suffering for the family members left behind. But when we are looking at cases like this, how can it be a bad thing? Instead of an indefinite period of time where your family stands vigil for you, watches you waste away, is forced to have their last memories of you be tainted by the ravages of the disease that will ultimately claim you, you can have your time, prepare and allow a more humane procedure take place. Less drugs. Less hospital time. Less drama. Less trauma.

This topic first came to light in a big way back in 1992 when Sue Rodriguez, also suffering from ALS and living in Victoria, B.C., challenged the ban. She was denied the right to an assisted suicide, but in 1994, she was successful in finding an anonymous doctor who would help and she was given her assisted suicide that year.

“If I cannot give consent to my own death, whose body is this? Who owns my life?” she asked. (cbc.com June 15, 2012)

Indeed. Who?

Letters that Need to be Written – Part I

Dear 2011,

I thought this letter would be really hard to send you, but I think this is really going to be the best thing for the both of us.

We’re done.

We started a year ago with a lot of promise. I was hopefully for what you had in store for me and excited with what lay ahead. When January finally arrived and I was laid off my job, I was disappointed, but chose to take the high road and make lemonade out of lemons. The Big Guy was happy with his new job, and I figured, it was time for me to re-evaluated some things. Everyone around me was so supportive – “It’s just a matter of time,” they said, “You’ll be back to work before you know it.”

But I wasn’t.

I worked my butt off. No job. I stuck with you because it was early in our relationship. How bad could it be?

Silly me.

In February we found out The Farm was sold. A part of my heart died and my soul has ached ever since. We had two months to get used to the idea but with each passing day it was just more painful. Next my father was given scary news. The Big C had come to his little world and surgery was needed.

Easter came and we received more bad news – The Big Guy’s mom was very ill and it wasn’t going to get better. The following week we said our first good bye to The Farm. The next week, my father went under the knife. Four hours later, he was conscious and as sarcastic as ever, and I went home to pass out after the stress of  the day. Within three days, my sons buried their granny.

In the summer, Samson failed and we were faced with the incredibly difficult choice of letting him go. At this point there was so much snot and tears that I started getting the feeling that you and I might not be the best fit.

I gave you some slack when we found Roman. There was a glimmer of hope there. I was willing to give you another chance.

I was so distracted with freelancing and looking for work that the weeks flew by. We found ourselves wrapping up our long goodbye to The Farm. The pain of this was eased somewhat by the fact that I now had a freakin’ job. While the training for the new position had me questioning my sanity, intelligence level and the ulterior motive of my new employer, I was successful.

I was ready to be positive, honestly, I was, but for some reason it was too hard. My Dad, who appeared to be doing well over the summer, started to fail. It was getting very scary and by October, he was in emerg almost as much as he was at home. I knew I had it with you when November rolled around. The scare we had with him was profound and life altering. We nearly lost him. I decided I couldn’t find a glimmer of hope in our relationship, 2011. You and I needed to take a break.

I know you were trying to extend an olive branch to me last week, when doctors gave  Dad the news that he was Cancer free. However, he is far from healthy and we are doing everything we can to get him stronger.

I will look back on the afternoons under the trees with family and friends. I will cherish the warm weather we had while I worked outside. I would have liked a day or two at the beach, but I think I’m going to try that next year.

That’s right. I’ve found someone new. I’m excited about the opportunities that are presenting themselves again. I’ve learned a lot in the time you and I spent together. I will not ask myself “How much worse can it get?” because the answer is chilling. I will take it one day at a time. I look forward to feeling positive again. The next 12 months have made no promises to me, and I’m okay with that.

So, I hope you can let me go and allow me to move one. In time I’m sure I’ll recall more fond memories, but for now, I need time.

And his name is 2012.

Sarah

Puppy Love

The first dog I ever had was a puppy named Heidi. I must admit, I was only a puppy myself at the time.

She was a German Shepherd puppy and she was beautiful.

Don't judge the bangs, or the turtleneck for that matter. At least I'm co-ordinated!

German Shepherds are vicious dogs; you should watch your children around them! (I think someone needs to save the dog!)

Because we lived on a farm, it seemed natural to have a second dog, since Heidi was starting to run with a neighbor’s dog and we worried about her getting too farm from home.
So we got Rene. Rescued him, would be a better way of putting it. He was owned by a large German man who not only intimidated his wife and son, but the dog too. Rene finally had enough of being treated badly and dared to stand up for himself. This did not go over well with the owner. He wanted him gone. I am ever so glad, because Rene was lovely.

Gingham was TOTALLY what all the cool kids were wearing - and Rene didn't mind my bowl bangs....

Ironically, Rene was Little Sister’s dog.  Not that he was given to “her”, since she was only an infant, but Rene, sensing that Heidi was responsible for me, took LS as his very own. This big “aggressive” male became bound to her in a way that could only be described as “darling”.
When nap time came for my wee sister, Mom would put her on the front porch in her buggy. The breeze was cooling in the warm summer afternoons and it was out of the strong sun. Rene would watch my mother putter around with her regular tasks and park himself beside the buggy. When LS awoke and cried out, Rene would howl to let Mom know that the baby was up. Like the very first baby monitor.
Rene would follow LS while Heidi followed me. We had our own personal body guards. The only time we ever had an issue was when Rene suffered from arthritis in his back hips. He slept fitfully one afternoon and I strolled past him with a bat resting over my shoulder.  The bat was far bigger than the shoulder and within a second the bat fell on the dog’s back end, waking him suddenly and causing him intense pain. Remember, his history told him that when he was being hurt, he needed to defend himself, and he did.
A small row of stitches were needed to heal the damage done, but I never blamed Rene for the bite. He blamed himself though. Upon my return from the hospital, Rene’s head hung as low as his tail. I was bathed in slobber as he licked me from ear to ear once I returned from the hospital. He felt bad for days after.
Rene more than made up for it a couple of years later, when a boy older than me tried to push me around. He raised his voice and gave me a shove that sent me to the ground. Within seconds Rene had the boy pinned to the ground beside me. He never bit the older boy, but he scared him enough to leave me alone.
By this time, my beautiful Heidi was gone. Rene pined for her as much as I did, so my parents found Britta. She was a female deemed unsuitable for breeding, as she had an overbite. While she wasn’t pretty like Heidi was, she was loyal and had a sweet personality.
After these two dogs, our family had a string of others, usually adopted as full grown dogs and all loved for their own special traits. So when the time came to start a family of my own, I knew it had to include a dog. The Big Guy and I fell in love with a Dutch Chow pup and after we named him Cole, we started house training. Eleven years later he developed Cancer and we lost our first “Fur Baby”.
That brought us to Samson. A purebred mutt, Sam was perfect for our young family. The boys loved him, and he was the best parts of Lab, Rottweiler and German Shepherd. The day we put him down was easily one of the worst in my life. We struggled with the decision to put him out of his pain, and in the end, I know it was the right thing to do. That didn’t make it any easier. Samson is the first dog we buried at our new home, and I look out on him every day.

My Beautiful Boy

I could talk about how his bark could stop you cold, if you didn’t know him well enough. Or how grown men thought twice about just walking up to him. But then I’d have to talk about how he was actually as sweet as his caramel eyes, and how much he loved running at The Farm – which we also lost this year. And I can’t do any of this without choking up…so enough about that.

The Big Guy got tired of my moping by the second day. He knows it’s not my way, but as I said, the last couple of days with Samson were really tough.

“Why don’t you look at some puppies?” he asked.

“I don’t think I’m ready for that yet,” I replied. He tried again the next day – pointing out I might feel better looking at puppies.

A quick scan of kijiji found hundreds of puppies – all of which were cute. He was right – it was something “happy” but I still wasn’t sure that I could imagine our house with another dog. The Big Guy contact the people we got Samson from, and they wouldn’t have another litter until the new year. A quick consensus of the household determined we didn’t want one of Samson’s brothers – it would be too hard to look at him and not see Sam.

Then it happened – a crazy combination of circumstances that gave me all the signs I needed. Before I knew it – there was laughter in the house – and smiles.

And chew toys….for a new pup. A German Shepherd named Roman.

The ears almost give the ability to fly!

 

When doing the Right Thing seems so Wrong

What do you do when someone you love is in pain?

How do you say goodbye to someone who has been a part of your heart, your home, your history?

When do you stop being selfish by keeping them with you, when you know how hard it is for them to hang on?

How do you know when it is time to change your family, as painful and inconceivable as that may seem?

I don’t know either. But last week, we said Good-bye to our beloved Samson. Devastated is simply not a big enough word to define how we feel. His loyalty, brilliance and courage have left an enormous void in our family. We love you and know you are finally out of your pain.

Until we swim with you again……

Woman’s Best Friend

This is Samson.

When he’s cheeky, he’s “Sparky The Wonder Dog”. He’s a purebred Mutt, but if you see shades of Lab, Shepherd and Rottweiler, you wouldn’t be wrong.

Sam and I are spending a great deal of quality time together, and while I wouldn’t call myself a fraidy-cat, I must say, there is something very reassuring about having a dog around. But Sam is an odd combination of brave boy and wuss.

Exhibit A – I don’t know what the driver of the oil truck has done to him, but he’s got a 110 lb dog pissed at him. That truck can be come up the hill – a street away from ours and Sam will go nuts. I have a hard time wrestling him away from the door when he’s hurling himself at it. Imagine a mohawk down his back – the hair is completely on end.

Exhibit B – Anyone who comes to our house has a “greeting”. Usually it’s four or five loud, sharp barks. These barks are so intense that you will still have the echo reverberating in your cranium when you crawl in bed at night.

Exhibit C – A friend of ours, who also happens to be a police officer, nearly soiled himself when he popped in unannounced. While Samson wasn’t going to let this “visitor” just mozy onto the homestead, he was more than glad to see the kids, whom he licked and bounced around like a pup. Sam LUVS the kids. Wanna break into our house? Bring an infant over – Sam goes ga-ga over the babies and wee-ones and he’s as gentle as a lamb with them.

Exhibit D – The lady who dropped of Sears catalogues at our previous residence would not get out of her van to drop off the magazines. Instead, she would fly up our little driveway at highway speeds and pull thisclose to our house to place the item in our mail box. We half expected to have her Dodge grill break through into our living room. This was after we had a tete-a-tete over Samson.

Irrational Lady: “THAT DOG needs to be tied up!”

Me: “Why? He’s on his own property?”

IL: “Well he’s a nasty dog – he should be tied up.”

Me: “He hasn’t bitten anyone.”

IL: “Well he’s a very aggressive dog!” (Let’s note here that she, herself, is becoming aggressive – I refrain from suggesting she should be tied up.)

Me: “He’s doing his job. He hasn’t bitten you, and he lives here.”

IL: “Well, I was attacked by a dog as a child!”

Me: “Well I’ve been bitten by four dogs, what is your point?”

She spins around gets back in her mini van and backs out of the driveway so fast that she shoots gravel in every direction. I ponder the reaction I would get if I’d sustained an injury from her behavior.

So Sam has a reputation. I’m sure it makes him very cool with the other Mutts he hangs with. I must admit, we don’t help with his bad street cred, since we’ve been known to reply in this fashion…..

Q: “Wow, big dog. Does he bite?”

A: “Not yet.”

This is a selfish response – but an honest one. He’s an animal – and any animal, when provoked, is going to react. However, I like to think that if the crazy oil truck driver were to force his way into the house, Sam would rip him limb from limb.

That being said, this weekend we were cutting trees.

And Sam, who has been enjoying the weekend outside with the boys, does this……

I can’t zoom back any more in this shot – because my leg is attached to my foot, which is immobilized by his BUTT!

Vicious dog. I wonder what the Sears lady would have to say now……