When to kill an old dog 3
I hadn't seen Jeannie for a little while and after a couple of days became convinced that a cusp had been crossed. In the curious reversal that dying can entail, B. now seemed to be caring for a tiny infant. The resemblance, even the sounds, were strikingly similar. And for an animal, or a person whose heart, lungs and digestion are OK, dying can take a long time. Question is, do we hasten it? And if so on what basis? I honour and admire B's devotion, this is undoubtedly living from love. In my love for her, my wishing for her what she most deeply desires, I stay alongside. Its a life task. Holding without grasping.
And yet love doesn't for me imply complete surrender of discrimination. Because a boundary does seem to have been crossed with Jeannie. Questions form, that like gravity attract answers. Is B's 24/7 devotion over-determined? Has some artefact of her history attached itself like a motor to her story? Driving it in ways that serve her interests but not Jeannies? Notwithstanding the local contradictions, is our over-arching belief that life is sacred acting as some fundamentalist anchor preventing us from taking action to end Jeannie's discomfort?
What is the cusp that I have crossed? It's a move from seeing B.s loving care for Jeannie as inescapable and essential to sharing the view of the vet that sees Jeannies condition as off the the scale insupportable, i.e. he refuses to support it. Through some tectonic shift of intuition I have moved to share this view. I hold it, I hope without grasping, without having to make it so. And, it is not my decision to take Jeannie's life.
Again questions arise that attract answers. Hasn't Jeannie had her life? Isn't it time to relinguish the demands that she makes, the power that we give her? Are we avoiding taking up the new phases of life that await us? Not for nothing have we sometimes talked about her as the god in the household. Is my shift towards deciding that the time has come to end her life driven by irritation and frustration? Impatience with what often seems to be a somewhat stalled state of life between us? And it's risky, 24/7 care, it leaves little or no slack for the contingencies of tenants who 'borrow' electricity and fail to pay their rent and neighbours writing petitions to the King, and civic authorities who inexplicably disimprove the square outside our windows.
(I need to open a bracket here, if Jeannie seemed obviously in distress i.e. that her deteriorating condition had became acute, then a call to the vet and ending her life would not be an issue)
To return to my thread, my supposed capacity for empathy generates the notion that Jeannie—a dog who is blind, deaf, somewhat incontinent and not walking or even sitting upright without help, but who, very like a tiny child, calls out to have her needs for food and rest and comfort met—has such an impoverished quality of life that it should be ended.
As of this morning all these answers seem rationalizations, especially the latter one. Is it not one of the gross examples of dominance at work in the world to decide that a person or animal's life is 'devoid of value' and that thus should, or must be ended? In another context it is one of the beliefs driving eugenics.
So in the way that matters of death and dying sharpen and ventilate our soulwork, these reflections seems to show that it is not Jeannie who has crossed a cusp towards a life devoid of value but me who who seems still infected by slivers of domination. In looking for a cusp, expecting a cusp, I found one.