Old friends


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Old friends
By Bobby Winters
Bill looked at the picture on the wall. No one else would’ve notice much difference between it and the pictures which surrounded it. Bill was a lover of hunting, fishing, and the outdoors, and each of the pictures on the wall featured scenes of the outdoors whether they were of him with a ten-pound bass or a 12-point buck.
The difference with the one he was looking at was that it featured not himself, but his friend Rex. Rex was there on one side and Rex’s retriever Queenie was on the other and there in between was Rex’s limit of mallards.
Bill took it from the wall for a moment to get a better look at it. He signed heavily and put it back on the wall.
“Honey,” Bill called out.
“What?” came the question in reply from his wife, who was at the kitchen sink preparing peppers, onions, and green tomatoes to make chow-chow.
“I’m going to see Rex,” he said.
She stopped what she was doing and came to the hall where he was standing. Her face was sweaty in spite of the cool autumn day outside.
“Want me to come with you?” she asked. She had a smile on her face, but it still looked sad.
“No,” Bill answered. He didn’t have to say why.
She went back to her chow-chow, and he opened the hall closet to retrieve his jacket. He pulled it on and its absence from the hanger revealed a twenty-gauge shotgun behind it. The gun had been Rex’s. Rex had given it to Bill in the short interval of time between when Rex had decided he wouldn’t be able to hunt anymore and when he’d had his stroke.
Bill closed the door and went out to the front of his house. He pulled his jacket tight against the breeze which seemed to be trying to make him think of winter.
He and his wife lived on a small holding of land out in the country. They had enough land to run a few cows. His wife had a garden. They also had a barn that doubled as a garage. He’d parked his pickup in it next to the tractor that he used for mowing. As he made his way to get into the truck, his dogs ran up to say hello.
They were Fella and Queenie. Fella was really just a big pup that Bill was trying to train, but Queenie was Rex’s old dog. Bill had taken Queenie in after Rex had had his stroke.
Fella was running circles around Queenie who was walking with a limp in her left hind leg. There was a pronounced weakness in it. She fell once or twice on the way to the truck.
Fella was good company to her, but she still got grumpy with him sometimes.
Bill patted her.
“How you doing, sweetheart?” he asked.
Her panting was his only answer.
Bill got into his truck. He looked into his rearview to make sure Queenie had lain down behind him and saw himself in the mirror instead. His wife had been the last to drive. She’d readjusted the seat but not the mirror. He saw a man with white hair that was accentuated by wind-burned, leathery skin. It looked more like the memory he had of his grandpa than the way he thought of himself.
He started on his way to visit Rex. Bill lived about 5 miles outside of a town of four-hundred souls. He drove through it and headed for the town of twenty-thousand thirty miles to the other side of it where Bill was.
Along the way, he noticed the grass had gone dormant, but the leaves had not yet fallen from the trees. The thermometer on the bank as he came into town told him it was one temperature, but the aches in his hands told him another.
He pulled into the hospice parking lot, parked his truck, and got out. He walked past the front desk and down to Rex’s room.
Rex was alone. His wife had died ten years before and they’d never had children. He was lying on his back with his head slightly elevated and a clear plastic tube laying across his face, with small tubes from it going into each nostril. Rex’s mouth was open in an oval shape.
There was a TV on the wall, but it wasn’t on. No reason to be.
Bill walked over by the bed.
“How are you doing, buddy?” he asked. “Seen better days?”
There wasn’t an answer. Never was.
Bill sat by the bed for half an hour and was about ready to go when a little girl of about twenty years of age came in. He figured she must’ve been a nurse because she was dressed like one.
“Don’t mind me,” she said. “I’m just here to change the patient.”
She turned Rex over onto his side and removed a soiled pad from beneath him and replaced it with a clean one. Then she cleansed his backside and turned him back over onto his back.
“Miss,” Bill began. “Do you have to do him like that? Couldn’t you use a bed pan instead of letting him mess himself like that.”
She looked surprised for a second, then sad, and then she touched his hand and smiled.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “He doesn’t have enough control to use a bed pan. I’d do it that way if I could. Sometimes we just have to do for people the things they can’t do for themselves anymore.”
Bill fought as hard as he could to keep from crying. He thought that maybe she didn’t see him.
When he got home, only Fella came to greet the truck. He got worried and looked around for Queenie.
After a brief search he found she was out back of the house where she usually laid on the ground in the sunniest spot she could find. She wasn’t lying down though. She was taking a crap or trying to at least. She curled her body in a squat, and the poop came out, but her hind quarters were so weak that she fell in it.
Bill went into the house and heard his wife’s voice.
“That you?” she asked. “Supper’s about ready.”
“Give me a minute,” he said.
She heard him open the closet door and take something out and then she heard him go outside. Two minutes later she heard a crack. Then she heard Bill come back in and put something into the closet.
“What was that sound outside?” she asked as she put his plate in front of him.
“I was just doing a favor for a friend,” he said. Then they blessed the food.
God Squad: Love for pets and people is different
08/14/2008, 9:15 am

Q: Most caring, ethical pet owners endorse the merciful termination of their pet's life in the face of a terminal illness, where suffering is apparent to a medical professional. How is it that the Judaism and Christianity do not hold the same view for human beings who suffer in pain with terminal illness? -- A loyal reader, via godsquadquestion@aol.com

A: The reason we don't "put down" people in the same fashion is obvious to our moral instincts, but there are other considerations. First, consider the differences between the medical facts in the case of a dying animal vs. a dying person. For a dying person, unlike an animal, there's the possibility of long-term palliative care.

Palliation means managing pain when you can't cure. We can make a dying person comfortable. We can alleviate their suffering and anxiety with medications. We generally can't do this for animals. We can't ask them how they feel, give them daily meds that are helpful over the long run, limit their activity or constrain them in appropriate ways. Because we can truly comfort people and not truly comfort animals, we terminate the life of a suffering, dying animal but palliate the suffering of a dying person and allow death to come when it comes.

The next reason we don't kill dying people is that they're autonomous moral agents. They can decide for themselves what they want. Animals can't do that. So what about people who've decided they want to die if they're terminally ill and in pain? There's a difference of opinion on this question between the legal community and people of faith. The difference stems from very different beliefs about who owns your body.

In the case of a dying person, the religious belief is that we must avoid two terrible intrusions on God's sovereignty over all life: 1) We must not stop death from coming in its natural time, and 2) we must not cause death to come before its time. The first concern means it is spiritually appropriate to stop all but palliative care and move a patient to a hospice center where their last days will be made as comfortable and serene as possible if they're beyond the help of modern medicine, whether or not they are suffering.

It should be mentioned that religious traditions like Jainism, Buddhism, Hinduism and even some types of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, believe and teach that animals are also ensouled beings. Some practitioners are vegetarians for this reason, and their sensitivity to the suffering and the spiritual dignity of animals ought to make all of us reflect on the ways we use and abuse animals on earth.

I felt that bond on the day my dog Miles died in my arms in the vet's office after a virulent cancer had ravaged him. I held Miles long after he was gone to whatever place God has in store for good dogs. My tears were the same ones I would cry for any person I'd also loved so deeply.

Send questions only to The God Squad, c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207, or email them to godsquadquestion@aol.com.

-Rabbi Marc Gellman


I took the liberty of editing to condense the material, the link is to the full article

Okie, this is spooky. This article was from the Aug 16 paper. Too similar a coincidence.