Last Saturday night, I had just come back from a Lightning game and decided to call my parents to check in on them. My dog, Loco, was starting to have accidents in the house, difficulty laying down/standing up, and even developed cataracts in his old age. He could no longer make it on our evening walks or jump onto the couch – I still remember how he used to leap from 5 feet away and still manage to clear it with plenty of room to spare. So that Saturday morning, my parents took Loco to the veterinarian to see if there was anything they could do to help him or at least prevent him from going to the bathroom in the house spontaneously. The veterinarian took one look at Loco and swallowed before looking up to my parents to tell them Loco had a stroke a few days ago. He said this is why he was defecating in the house, not responding to commands, eating his feces, etc. The vet proceeded to tell my parents it was time. Loco’s quality of life was no longer there, as he was in a lot of pain from the stroke. My parents said he made it seem like there was no other way to go about this. Loco needed to die both for his sake and my parent’s. Thinking hard about the issue and feeling pressured by the vet, my parents tearfully agreed it was time, and Loco was put down at the age of 16. I had grown up with him, and upon learning my best friend passed away I shed a tear. Having been around since I was three, we had so many memories together, and it was hard to think the person I shared them with was now gone.
After putting him to sleep, my parents said their goodbyes and had him cremated. Later that week, I got a call from my parents telling me they picked him up from the vet. I couldn’t help but think about how odd it was to hear “I picked up Loco today.” On Easter Sunday, my parents and I are planning to scatter him around a tree we call the “Charlie Brown Tree”. This poor tree has been torn down multiple times by hurricanes and flooded by downpours but always manages to survive. Every year, it grows bigger and more beautiful. A parallel to the tree, Loco was the runt of the litter never expected to grow or be obedient, but in my biased opinion, he was the best dog ever. I’ll never forget him, and the memories we shared together.
I think Hubbard in her piece titled “Abortion and Disability” (n.d.) would argue against what the veterinarian said to my parents, or at least the manner in which he presented Loco’s death as a necessity. Hubbard (n.d.) speaks about the importance of giving power to the every day citizens to make decisions about life and death, as scientists “make decisions about what lives to ‘target’ as not worth living.” Not only does this give the vet power, but it also enforces social constraints that have been put in place by these very same people. As ordinary citizens, we are expected to adhere to these boundaries in order to make society as easy to live in as possible. In my dog’s case, it was easier to put him down than it was to give him pain medication and prolong his life, and the vet felt so strongly about this that he did not even mention this as an option to my parents. Now, I am not disagreeing with my parent’s decision, but it does bring to light how influential an “experts” opinion can be in decisions as grand as taking a life. Hubbard (n.d.) would have said that in order for my parents to make this decision, they should have been completely and unbiased information about their options, and what it meant for Loco.
Yet, who were we to make this decision when we were unable to truly know what Loco was going through? Sure, maybe he was having difficulty standing up or hearing commands, but he could have been okay with that. To him, standing in the yard with the wind in his face could have been enough of a reason to push through the pain. Maybe, as Taylor would say (2014), Loco was a victim of ableism on account that we pitied him. It is arguable the veterinarian assumed since Loco was disabled he must have been suffering and a mercy killing was the best means to proceed. I think the phrase he used was “put him out of his misery”. Taylor (2014) brings up a good point in her work, highlighting how we automatically assume since humans place the notion of disability onto animals that all other creatures must view the disabled member as lesser than. Yet, there is a plethora of evidence highlighting how nature cares for the injured rather than killing it off (Taylor, 2014). Here, I want to tie in a phrase I used earlier in my description of Loco’s condition: “Loco needed to die both for his sake and my parent’s.” I believe both Taylor (2014) and Hubbard (n.d.) would argue Loco’s disability was more of a pain for my parents than it was for himself. Loco was in pain no doubt, but these two authors call to question many decisions made that day. Regardless, he’s probably enjoying himself in puppy heaven. I’ll miss that little guy.
Hubbard, R. (n.d.). Abortion and disability: who should and who should not inhabit the world? The disabilities studies reader, 2, 93-103.
Taylor, S. (2014). Animal crisps. Journal for critical animal studies, 12(2). Retrieved from http://www.criticalanimalstudies.org/volume12-issue-2-2014/