Friday, July 17, 2009

Dumbest dog in the world

Chester the chocolate lab died this week. I first met Chester when I was shuttling my youngest back and forth to the rural farm where she took riding lessons. The lane from the "hard road" to the barn was fairly long, and Chester ran full tilt toward the car's front wheels. It was only after this scene repeated itself every trip that I realized this was no usual creature. He was dumb. He did not seem to comprehend that a 3000 lb metal monster could possibly hurt him. After all, this nice young girl always was inside it, ready to give the horses (and the dogs) treats! With apologies to the dog in the currently popular movie, I truly believe Chester to be the dumbest dog in the world, or at least in the top (bottom?) 2%. His owners agree.

Sometimes, as I would be sitting in the car, windows down, waiting for the lesson to end and my daughter to emerge, Chester would leap around and chase unseen things. I personally think he may have had doggie schizophrenia, and was following "voices", but the owners said he liked chasing insects. When he tired of this activity, he would almost always top off his romp with a leg raised and a bodily function performed on one of my tires.

The lessons were twice a week, and my wife and I would trade shuttle duties, so I didn't really spend all that much time with this critter. I was surprised, then, at how badly I felt when I learned that Chester had been (you guessed it) run over by a car and killed. He wasn't that old, certainly not very slow, and the driver clearly had no fault in the accident. This dog, however dumb, was always very happy and energetic, and was, in fact, the quintessential dog: slobbering, unashamedly loving all God's fellow creatures, living or inanimate. It pains me to believe that unconditional love that strong has left this world.

It also reminds me that, like so very many of us, Chester died the way he lived. I have had multiple experiences of patients who live in houses where I am certain there is no electricity or running water, and conditions for their end of life care are less than optimal, but they love their lives for what they are, not expecting anything different. Or those whose lives have been lived "in the fast lane", and they die there as well. Those who deny they will ever die, and struggling to the last breath, and those who surround themselves with chaos during their lives so why would we expect anything less in dying?

Another three creatures died in my yard today. A small bird had built a nest in a window box. We discovered this fact when the mother bird flew out as we were watering. The nest was quite small, and difficult to see, but we watched it and indeed, saw three eggs. A great wind blew the whole box over today, and the hatchlings did not survive the fall. This, too, struck me in places inside myself that I didn't expect it to. How unfair! How tragic! Poor helpless defenseless birds. Yet these, too, died as they a precarious situation the mother bird chose for them.

My favorite newscaster of all time died today. I don't know the details other than he was 92, and had been near death at least for the week since the whole Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett debacle. But if he, too, died as he lived, his last words could very well have been, "And that's the way it is, Friday, July 17, 2009"

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