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Why Do Pets Only Live a Short Time? A 6 Year Old’s Perspective

It’s National Pet Month.

If you’ve listened to the Joy Morning Rush for more than five minutes, you know I’m wild about animals, but absolutely bananas for dogs.  I love my little DJ, my 18 month old lab I refer to a lot.

DJ
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But my first true love, my Collie/Sheppard mix Mal, passed away two summers ago, and I still miss her every day.  She was truly a sweet soul that stood by me through 12 of the most influential years of my life.

Mal
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I know Mal is with me all the time (not just because of the tattoo of her paw print I have on my left ribcage). When she did finally pass of Congestive Heart Failure, I was devastated, and of course, wondered why I was only given a short time with her, in relation to my life-expectancy.

The following has been circulating online for a while, but it rings true today: If you REALLY want to know what life is all about, first look to your companion animal…and then, ask a six year old.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me.  I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.  He 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.” 

<3 LD

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