January 2013

Happy Hunting

Buster, Buster.

A lot of people have been through the loss of a pet. I’ve been through it before. Now, as of this past Tuesday January 29th, I’m going through it again.
 
His name was Buster. He was a Chocolate Labrador. In just under 12 years, he became so involved in the life of my family, that we’re grieving him as if a person had died. How did we get to love this animal so much?
 
You could argue it’s irrational. That it makes no sense to bring these animals into your life knowing they won’t live much past a decade and will break your heart on leaving. You could argue it’s insanity to embed a pet into your daily routine – bringing him with me to work every day, for example, spending almost every hour together when I wasn’t travelling – only to have that routine, that grooved in set of habits, blown apart at the seams when they die.
 
It was cancer. Being a Lab, he didn’t say anything about it, despite what must have been mounting discomfort. He was happy, happy, happy. Then he dropped without saying as much as “ouch”. Into Emerg. Bleeding profusely internally. We could have gone into surgery, removed the offending spleen, which had by that point ruptured. But given how the cancer had spread already inside him, we’d be buying him days or weeks. Win the lottery and he’d live a couple of months.
 
Maybe he would even have been happy for some of that time. But we would have been waiting for the axe of cancer to fall. We would have been waiting for him to go through the whole ordeal again only this time knowing it was the end.
 
We walked around the park outside Animal Emerg. Buses were passing. Routines in progress, unaltered by the implosion of our own.
 
A Lab is a Sporting Breed and Buster was from a sporting line. We never hunted him. We never had him compete at retrieving events. A whole part of his genetics was either wasted or suppressed, depending how you look at it. But he ended up with a job, nevertheless. And after a few years of maybe wondering if he’d gotten into the right family – these were the bouncing-off-the-wall years, from 4 weeks to about 4 years – Buster settled into his job and then never stopped getting better at it.
 
His job was to inspire kindness. I watched him do it, over and over again. On the street. In the park. People would get down into a crouch in front of him and cup his head, look into his eyes. It used to annoy me when strange men kissed him (hey, that’s where I kiss him). But I knew what was going on. He was doing it in our house, 24/7.
 
Buster enacted a Kantian imperative (I suspect he was unaware of this). He inspired kindness in people with whom he came in contact, by merely being who he was.
 
Can we be kind without pets? I’d like to say: of course! Though I’m careful to be so sure. All I’m sure of is that animals give us a chance to practice.
 
You left us far too soon, pal. But you were great at what you did. We let you go now for your good service, with respect and memories. And yes, no question: love.
 
Happy hunting.
 
Posted: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 10:35am
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