It was so peaceful. So dignified. We said our goodbyes with love and respect ... and I'm sure he appreciated it. I know we did. I hope he's looking down on us with those smiling, ever-loyal eyes, and if he could talk I think - I pray - he would say "thanks."
He had lived a long, full and happy life. Deeply loved by his family and friends, he got to do what he was born to do. Together we romped through the hills and dales of Northeast Iowa in search of his passion: the gaudy but wily ring-necked rooster pheasant.
When he wasn't hunting, he was the most devoted companion anyone could ever wish for. I can honestly say in 11 ½ years I never heard him growl, never saw him bite, never do anything except try and please those around him. And he was great at it. World class, in fact.
Simply put, he was a dog you could trust, and he returned that trust with an unyielding sense of peace and happiness. No matter what travails we had to endure in this complicated journey known as life, we could always count on Abe to be there with a reassuring attitude that said, "Everything's gonna be fine, just keep the faith and look on the sunny side. Always on the sunny side."
Near the end, he began to suffer. I knew things weren't right and his mannerisms, coupled with his advancing years, told me loud and clear his days in this dimension were numbered. I was heartbroken, but instead of crying I did what he had taught me to do so very well for more than a decade: I kept smiling.
When I gave the matter some deep reflection, there was really nothing else to do but rejoice in a life so joyously lived. No regrets. No bitterness. No "would-a, could-a, should-a." We'd been good owners, and in return he'd been the best pooch of all time. And I dare anyone to say different.
That's why, when it came time to do the right thing by our beloved Labrador, there was no hesitation. None. Rather than prolong his agony for even a moment longer than was absolutely necessary, we decided to ease his pain.
We made arrangements with our local veterinarian and took him in for what we knew would be the last time. The compassionate vet handled the matter with grace and respect. He examined Abe thoroughly and then told us without hesitation we were doing the right thing. Abe had run his race and was victorious ... no doubt. It was time to send him to glory, not prolong his distress for some selfish reason.
As the needle was inserted into his vein and the fluid began flowing through his body, we stroked his big, beautiful head and told him, "Everything's fine ol' buddy." He looked up at us one last time with love in his eyes, and I know I saw him smile. Typical Abe. God we loved that dog. Still do.
When I relayed the story to a friend and told him how peaceful the entire process had been, his reply caught me a bit off guard, "Too bad we don't treat humans as well as we do our pets."
The more I thought about that statement, the more I knew he was absolutely right. Why must some people suffer for extended periods of time when they know full well there is absolutely no hope for recovery? Why can't they make the coherent choice to end their lives via assisted suicide in a peaceful, loving setting surrounded by family and friends?
It's not right, and the vast majority of Americans agree. Polls show that roughly 70 percent of U.S. adults - and about 60 percent of the elderly - think the terminally or irreversibly ill should have the right to end their own lives.
As a rational society, why haven't we come to the logical conclusion that a dignified death is the natural and appropriate ending to a well-lived life, when life as we know it is no longer possible?
Instead, according to an article written by Wendell Stephenson who is president of the Final Exit Network, authorities believe they are in a better position to make life decisions for mentally competent adults. In fact, just three states - Montana, Oregon and Washington - currently allow physician-assisted suicide. Georgia has even made it a felony for an outside group to even talk with people about end-of-life options that include self-deliverance.
Ridiculous ... if not downright cruel. This needs to change and change in a hurry. I'm not getting any younger and it would be comforting to know such a "self-delivering" decision is available. Granted, I'm in no hurry, but still ...
If we've got enough common sense to put our pets down when the end is obvious, then why can't humans have the right to determine their final farewell? It's the right thing to do, and I know Abe would totally agree.