One of my companions is dying.
This is not my first rodeo. I have had many pet companions in my life, and some have lived long lives, and some have had their lives abruptly shortened. But either way, each has left a unique, cherished mark on my life that I would not change in any way. But while that does not negate the sadness and sense of loss that I feel when the end occurs, there is a lesson even in that.
In one of my first blog posts about robots, I wrote this:
My dog is much more than something that barks and performs tricks. When she greets me at the door, she teaches me the value of companionship. When she’s hungry or wants to go out, she reinforces the responsibility that comes with caring for another living being. When she snuggles up to me on the couch, she is rewarding me for the trust I have earned from her. When she sleeps between me and my wife on the bed, and we are both holding her, she acts as a conduit between us that enhances my feelings of coexistence and connectedness. And when she ultimately moves on to doggie heaven – as all dogs do at some point in time – she will teach me an important lesson about grief and the cycle of life. As all my dogs have.
Every pet we have is like a mini cycle of life: From the time we get them as a little peanut and have to teach them the ropes, through their adolescent and adult years, and into old age when we have to tend to them and ease them on. And every one of these little cycles reinforces both the connection we all have as living beings and the impermanence of that connection. I cherish my dogs and cats not only because I love them, but because I know that the time I have with them is limited and precious. And that is the way it should be with all of our friends and companions, animal or human.
So as I ease my companion in his final days and help him move on, I will try to focus less on the grief and more on the remembrance and duty I have to repay him for the companionship he has provided me over the years. And the thing about our animal companions is this: They do not concern themselves with remorse or death. They are creatures of the moment, and my remaining moments with him should be the same.