Living with the Whys

Why did this have to happen? Why did my dog get sick? Why did my dog have to die? Why couldn’t anything be done? Why now? Why me? Why my dog?

So many questions left unanswered. Would it be better if there were answers? It’s hard to say.  The answers could lead us to learn something that will ensure it never happens again that way.  Maybe there’s things we really could have done differently and gotten a different outcome. Knowing so could prepare us better for our other dogs, present or future, or it could simply wrack us in guilt.Ace at the park 04292013

If we knew that something we did – neglected medical care (even unknowingly), gave our animals a poor diet, exposed them to toxins – created their illness and caused their death, how would we live with that? Or maybe we left them in an unsafe situation where they were harmed, stolen, ran away, in an accident or something equally tragic? How could we ever forgive ourselves?

Since my dog Ace was diagnosed with kidney failure and died two short months later, I’ve asked myself ‘why’ countless times.  It seemed he was perfectly healthy one day and then suddenly diagnosed with kidney failure and an anal gland tumor the next. Whaaaaat?!?!?! How? When could that possibly have happened?!! WHY??????

He died in June 2013, and to this day, I still sometimes ask “why?” I’ll never know for sure.  I’ve blamed myself anyway on countless occasions.  I think of all the things I consider mistakes on my part; choices I made that at the time I thought were safe or in my dog’s best interest, or that I may have dismissed as unimportant.

Ace was your ‘typical’ dog for most of his life…. living by the directives of the veterinary industry.  A ‘high quality’ kibble diet, flea & tick control, heartworm medicine, vaccines on schedule.  The vet’s recommendation is all anyone needs after all, right?

But more dogs are dying younger; more dogs are getting cancer and auto-immune diseases, diabetes, etc; really they are a mirror of what’s happening with their people too.  More drugs, more disease, more pills, more ills.

A few years before Ace got sick, I started researching and learning much more about natural healthcare. I questioned if healthcare were so great in this country, why are the incidences of illness higher than ever before? Our system is really all about sick care; managing symptoms, never looking for the root cause of illness, more about keeping people patients for life.  Medicine is, after all, first and foremost a business.  Corporations’ #1 goal is P-R-O-F-I-T.  And the same has become true for our pets and their care much of the time also.

As I learned more and more about natural care for dogs (people too), species-appropriate diets, and the foibles of the pet-care industry, I made a lot of changes to the way I cared for and fed Ace. I suspect it was too little too late, however. The truth is I’ll never really know just why Ace got sick.

The blessing of that is I simply can’t blame myself.  I know that I always did the best I could for him with what I thought or knew at the time. I will continue to research and learn so that I can be as educated as possible on what’s really best for my dog. I don’t blindly accept what I’m told anymore; I ask questions, I do research; most importantly, I think, I use common sense. Does it make sense to put toxic chemicals in my dog’s body? Does it make sense to feed a diet of dry, over processed, dead food? Do drugs with myriad potential side effects make sense when there are natural, safer alternatives? Could there be alternative solutions I don’t know about but could get from a 2nd opinion or more time to research?

Does what I’m doing for my dog make sense, based on everything I’ve learned and read, based on everything I know about my dog and his species?

And if it wasn’t illness that took your dog’s life, the answers remain the same. You did the best you could in the moment with what you had and knew at the time. And bigger than that, we simply can’t know what is “supposed to” happen; we simply can’t. And so to accept all the blame is not only wrong, it is cruel and serves no one. Our dogs leave behind lessons, examples of forgiveness, and we would do best to learn from them. Forgiveness always starts with self-forgiveness; it is one of the ways we can honor our dogs and all that they were to us.

This is how I’ve come to live with all the “whys”, the best way I know how.