-- by Mike Murray
It is often said that growing old "sure beats the alternative." For many -- people and animals alike -- that is certainly so. But for others, perhaps it is not. Miserable lives, ones filled with nothing but pain and loneliness, profit little from protraction.
Longevity is a blessing -- for the fortunate. For the unfortunate, it is something less.
So very often, the difference seems to boil down to the presence (or lack thereof) of "significant others" in one's life. Those lucky enough to have even one nurturing soul looking after them as they march, inexorably, toward their Great Reward seem to enjoy a quality of life that truly does make each day a gift. Irrespective of discomfort that might plague their aging bodies, they are buoyed by caring companions.
George, Dewey, and Amber were thusly blessed. Each passed away in recent weeks. But each knew the comfort of people who dearly loved them.
George Maciuszko (the subject of another essay) was cared for by his devoted wife, Kathy. As was he, she is academically accomplished. And, as did he during his professional career, she shoulders substantial workplace responsibility.
But employment duties, demanding as they are, never kept Kathy from tending to her husband's special needs. George lived a very long time, making it (nearly) to the century mark. His mind remained sharp until the end, but his body had progressively begun "giving up the ghost" decades earlier. That he was able to live so long and accomplish so much-- he completed a scholarly World War II tome shortly before his demise -- owes largely to his wife's unwavering support.
Admiral Dewey was the canine companion of Karen and Dik Malott. When thinking of the closeness of their relationship, I am reminded of a comment my mother (a widow, struggling to provide for her seven children) made decades ago during a moment of despair: "Some people treat animals better than they do people."
That is untrue of the Malotts. Yes, they treated Dewey very well. But they have treated -- continue to treat -- people exceptionally well, too. The heroic care that they provided Dewey, they've also offered to humans in need. Still, it is plain to see that they were deeply attached to "the Admiral." The extraordinary lengths to which they went to assist him as his health declined serve as testimony to their love and devotion.
And then there is Amber, taken in by Cheryl and Dale Lang when a relative had to give her up. Unlike the Langs' other pooch (Champion), Amber never took a liking to my mutt (Janna). No matter: dogs will be dogs, after all.
But Amber was always sweet to my wife (Pam) and to me. And she was a wonderful companion to the Langs. As do so many other dogs, she was obliged to spend her life in more than one home. I imagine it was difficult for the person who was forced to give her up to say goodbye. I hope it was of some comfort, however, to know that Amber found solace with Cheryl and Dale.
I don't fault my mother for her remark, made years ago while she was desperately struggling to provide for her family. It must have been hard for her to observe -- what seemed to her to be -- the pampering of some people's pets.
But, to her and to others lamenting the care and devotion enjoyed by fortunate humans and animals, I offer this: The shame isn't that some are loved too much; it is, instead, that others are loved too little. If all of God's creatures were treated as well as were George, Dewey, and Amber, the world would be a better place.
Copyright © 2011 Michael F. Murray -- All rights reserved.