Tuesday, January 18, 2011
A Whimsical but Heartfelt Tribute to My Childhood Dog, Snickers (1992-2011)
It was a weekend of grieving but also of relief. The picture above and the pictures below are from the last hour of Snickers’ life. After some ethical wrestling, the difficult decision was made by our family to have him put down this past weekend.
I got Snickers for my 10th birthday, and I’m now nearly 28. The stubborn dog just wouldn’t die, far outliving what anyone expected. But while his heart was still beating, his age was definitely showing, as in recent years he’d lost much of his hearing and sight, his ability to walk well, his teeth, his sense of direction (maybe due to sight), his ability to control his bowels, while also having grown several tumors on his body.
We thought it to be the merciful thing to do to put him to sleep—both for him, and also for my mother I’d say. I haven’t lived at home regularly in a decade, while my mom has very faithfully taken care of him even when taking care of him became an increasingly greater burden. She certainly has had a more difficult time with what has transpired, as her and Snickers’ lives have been a bit more interwoven than his and mine in recent years.
It wasn’t easy. But I’m content with the closure I felt I had. I picked Snickers up from my parents' house and took him to my Grandma’s more spacious property to walk around a bit, hoping maybe the exercise might wear him out and save me a trip to the vet. Actually, I tried to reason with him the night before, suggesting that it might be worth just dying in his sleep, since he doesn’t care much for the vet anyway. I don’t think he considered it that extensively. I also don’t think he understands much beyond a few English words.
Anyway, we wandered around a bit, hobbling more than walking, before I spent a while massaging him and scratching him, trying to make sure his last hour was filled with love. And it is love. It might sound a bit like hyperbole to those who aren’t really dog people, but we loved Snickers and were loved by him in a very real way.
I don’t know how lovable Snickers actually is, really. He ate, slept, barked, shed hair, humped inanimate objects and human legs in his younger years—a fairly simple life. I imagine part of his gift to my family, part of his “act of love” was giving us the opportunity to love him—especially my Mom, who, as I said, very faithfully attended to his needs, but also me to some extent, as my childhood and the occasional visits home in my twenties afforded me the opportunity to shower him with affection and attention.
It’s hard to pinpoint to what extent Snickers actually made me more aware of the beauty of Love and more able to give such love in my relationships with others. But I imagine it helped, if only a little bit.
I didn’t cry. I haven’t really cried about any life circumstances in a long time. The only times my eyes get watery are when my contacts are bothering me. Or every time little Forrest breaks free of his braces while Alan Silvestri’s gorgeous score supports his liberation; or when Andy and Red finally meet on a Mexican beach and hope is fulfilled. I probably also cried the first time I saw Simba claim his throne, or cried in fear the first time I heard one of Samuel L. Jackson’s Bible-quoting, pre-murder speeches. 1994 was a very good year for movies.
While I didn’t shed tears, I still felt my heart racing, especially looking into Snickers' eyes and holding him still while the shot was given, catching him in my arms as he slowly drifted off. My heart was also racing while carrying him out of the vet hospital, having to tell several children in the waiting room “he’s just sleeping!” while looking apologetically at the parents who probably didn’t want their kids watching.
I dug a deep grave, buried him, made a makeshift cross out of discarded parts of our old deck, and offered a fairly lighthearted speech with Joann and my Dad standing by. I poked a bit of fun at my dog, shared some nostalgic remembrances, and offered a hopeful prayer that in the end—when I believe God will usher in a new creation, restored, reconciled, and made whole—God might find it in his heart to welcome Snickers into this new world. I don’t know if all dogs go to heaven, as the forgettable animated movie from my childhood suggests. But here’s hoping Snickers makes it. :)
Thanks Snickers, for being a part of our lives. Rest in peace.