Do humans have the same rights as a dog?

A brave and caring Montana judge, Honorable Dorothy McCarter, has just ruled that doctor assisted suicides are legal for terminally ill patients who suffer intolerable pain. Montana is the third state to provide the species this humane right. Two other states, Oregon and Washington, have gifted their citizens this same opportunity to end endless agony.

aliceI find myself not much interested in the several legal arguments that are offered for or against providing human beings an end to unmitigated suffering. As I experience my eightieth year on this planet and consider the possibilities that may arise in my remaining years the issue transcends nice legalisms and moral imperatives and becomes very real.

The day before yesterday one of our labs ventured out on the paper-thin ice on our pond. The pond is deep and it is cold. You and I could not survive in those waters more than a minute or two. Alice (we named her after my grandmother) could not get back up on solid ground. But she was close enough that we were able to belly-out over the ice only a few feet with one of us holding on to the other, and to pull her out.

But what if she had been out in the middle of the pond, say, fifty feet from shore, the ice was too thin to bear our weight and no boat or other means were available by which to reach her? Would we simply stand there and watch her slowly, painfully, freeze to death and eventually, after many terror filled minutes slowly, agonizingly drown?

I have a rifle.

Most of us have had to put a pet “down” at one time or another. Assisted death for a pet is accepted in our culture. One of my friends just went through this with his dog. He reports how the animal seemed to know what was happening, that as the needle was painlessly inserted into his vein, and my friend was holding his faithful friend close to him and petting him, the dog looked up with peaceful eyes and wagged his tail as if to say he understood and was grateful. 

But Dr. Kevorkian, in Michigan, was prosecuted as a common criminal numerous times for his heroic effort to end such suffering in the human animal. Geoffrey Fieger (later my client) successfully defended the doctor on six occasions. Finally the good doctor believed he would be able to defend himself, but a Michigan jury convicted him of second degree homicide. After spending eight years in prison he was recently released on parole. What more needs to be said about the anomaly in the human organism that loves and respects its pets more than members of its own species?

Can it be that our pets are more loved and more deserving of our compassion than we?

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41 responses to “Do humans have the same rights as a dog?

  1. As I have heard many times, “You can judge the character of a man by the way he treats his dog.”

  2. Amen.

  3. Somehow we believe that only God can determine the ultimate fate of a man or woman. And there are many who believe assisted suicides deprive God the chance to perform miracles. I like to think of God as a bit more in control of what he/she chooses to control, or not to. Can you imagine the anger? “I was away blessing a picnic in Crawford and they prematurely ended the life of Margaret in Minnesota. My miracle calendar had her on for tomorrow.” For those of us that believe, how could we gain such knowledge to cure and to heal and yet remain forbidden to use that knowledge to end inevitable suffering and pain. Big disconnect.

  4. For a completely unexplainable reason, there are some individuals who seriously believe it is better for people to suffer in agony from a terminal illness rather than be allowed to die peacefully. And that anyone who assists them, because they cannot end their misery themselves, should be branded as “criminals” at best and “murderers” at worst.

    I find that attitude to be heartless, to say the least. And I wonder if these pro-suffering individuals will change their minds if their turn comes.

  5. One will argue a dog has no soul, unlike a human being.

    But this is an interesting post Mr. Spence because it brings me back to the death penalty. Although it can be argued, I find it hard to reconcile the views of someone who supports the death penalty, yet does not believe an individual who is suffering terribly from terminal cancer has the right to assisted suicide.

  6. My maternal grandmother was a very dignified, proud woman. She was not educated but she was innately refined–one of the best days of her life was when Filene’s in Boston wrote on her job application “suitable for employment in any department” which was unusual for a Jew.

    I became her guardian in her late 60s when she started the descent into Alzheimer’s. By the time she died 10 years later, nothing appeared to be left of the person she had been. At one point in the deterioration, she had a lucid moment and said to me “This hasn’t happened to anyone else and it won’t happen to you.”

    There was no enjoyment of life for the last several years. And had my grandmother known what she had become, it would have devastated her. Having watched that, as well as my mother’s death from cancer, with pain that could not be controlled, I side with Dr. Kevorkian. I hope someone can do me the kindness I couldn’t do for my mother or her mother.

  7. Living in Washington State I voted yes on the right to die with dignity, however, I had to take care not to admit this to anyone in my family. Being as they are all very religious – in some fashion or other- they consider it an affront to God to take one’s own life. They spoke to me of a “slippery slope” and how soon it would lead to wholesale euthanasia of all parts of the population we no longer consider useful. Also of how it prevents people to experience the grace of God, which you only receive in your last and most painful moments. Perhaps I could understand this if we were truly able to alleviate all suffering and guarantee a painful end. I know all too well that this is not always possible. Often physicians are afraid to prescribe adequate doses of pain medication, as they fear this might hasten death, and possibly lead to law suits. It seems strange to me that the day or two you succeed in staving off death is worth the unbearable pain that some people suffer. I have not personally been touched by this, but I worked as a nurse for many years, albeit most of the time as a psychiatric nurse, however, I was quite aware of what was going on. Many nurses privately assured me that they were not willing to slowly linger, and, of course, were aware of effective ways to prevent such an end of life. Things do get mighty complicated in our confusing philosophy of correctness. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Gerry. It makes me feel less alone in the world.

  8. The so called “Queen of mean”, Leon Helmsley of NYC, billionare real estate tycoon, left $ 12 million in her will for her dog, “Trouble”, & other large bequests for other dogs/ pet societies, and cut her childern –heirs- out of her will.
    At least, that is what the news claims, but maybe they have no clue on how Leon stuctured matters.
    Once, she said only “little people” pay taxes, and then was convicted of tax evasion.
    So, how may people are still paying taxes in the USA today, some data notes 40 % or more of elligle taxpayers do not pay any federal taxes in the USA, and now O Admin has a reverse hand out plain(called some credits)
    Dog’s don’t pay taxes.
    This Nation is clearly going to the dogs.. THE NATION OF BAIL OUTS.
    Looks like the Treasury Secretary, the guy running the bail outs, had trouble paying taxes, as did Senator Dashle(sounds real fishy), who dropped out to be in the O Cabinet due to his tax problems. Yes, the Bush Administration treated most of America worst than dogs, and what a mess they left, and Dick Cheney don’t clean up poop.

  9. A few years ago Derek Jeter, the amazing New York Yankees shortstop, earned the respect of many non-Yankee fans by leaping into the stands to catch a foul ball, hurting himself in the process. For a human, it was a rare example of willingness to risk injury out of love for living in the moment and for playing the game at full-tilt.

    But it was typical, everyday behavior for a labrador.

    I’m glad yours made it back to shore.

  10. So, Mr Spence:
    How would the State of Wyoming view your appeal if Alice was not your 8 year old black lab dog, but your 8 year old daughter, where would you come down, aside from all those legalisms, or other constructs you have used for some big win, over the readership here at WWW- the human animal farm, blawg land, would you then pull
    the trigger…….?

  11. Ibi jus, ubi remedium. What on Earth makes you think we have any “rights” at all?

    In a legal universe where 80-90% of appellate decisions have no precedential value, and in those increasingly rare instances where they read the briefs at all, judges only follow so-called “binding precedent” when it takes them where they wanted to go in the first place, every “right” we have is perpetually insecure. For instance, read Smith v. Mullarkey, 191 P.3d 890, 891 & n. 1 (Colo. 2005) (judges can decide case wherein they are proper party defendants in tort, even if other judges are available and authorized to hear it) and Smith v. Bender, No. 07-cv-01924-MSK-KMT (no jurisdiction to decide the resulting civil rights claim) in light of Colo. Rev. Stat. § 13-4-101 (judges of the Colorado Court of Appeals are authorized by law to “serve in any state court with full authority as provided by law,” thereby bypassing the “Rule of Necessity”), and tell me whatever happened to the Fourteenth Amendment right to have your case heard by a fair and independent tribunal. Absent some reliable mechanism for its enforcement — and an effective means of punishing judges for substituting the crooked cord of discretion for the golden mete-wand of the law, the Bill of Rights doesn’t even have much value as toilet paper.

  12. Gerry’s commentary reminds me of George Vest’s Eulogy of a Dog…..

    Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. His son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog.
    Gentleman of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

    If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.

  13. This week all the papers are reporting that the Court in NY is not going to honor Leona Hemsley’s mission statement for the Helmsey trust that billions go to ” canine welfare”.
    Instead, the court is going to allow the money to go to human causes. The dog cause of Leona was axed by the NY Bar, and judiciary. So much for Leona’s best friends, and the disposition of her estate money

  14. I’m more afraid of the day my beloved equine will need to be laid to rest than I am for the day when a relative (human) of mine will ask for the extra morphine. The horse can’t tell me it’s what he wants and that he’s ready.

    The human will.

    Cheers,

    ~Jess

  15. I had two friends. They were from Detroit before they moved to Wyoming. Helen was 25 years older than Ethan, but they fell in love in the Motor City and after seeing the Grand Tetons, moved to Wyoming. Ethan was still in his twenties, Helen was in her late forties. Helen divorced her husband and gave up custody to her three children, all girls, to be with Ethan.
    They were deeply in love with each other and Ethan gave Helen plenty of room to be herself, something she couldn’t be in her prior life.Ethan was a fine radio announcer and disk jockey. He liked most of all to play classical music on an evening shift for which he meticulously wrote ellegant scripts. She was raised a strict Catholic, he was Jewish, but non-observant.
    They came to me when I was still a very young lawyer believing that I could one day rule the world. We talked about liberal politics and life. I was in a firm that had a Catholic, a Morman and a Jew as members. We were free-thinker and were willing to be open minded on almost all things. He had health problems related to diabetes but had lost tremendous weight to cope with the disease.
    They wanted Wills and were very interested in “simultaneous death” clauses and were insistent that I be named the Personal Representative. I drew up the Wills, and
    over the years revised them ever so slightly, particularly regarding treatment of her children in their Wills.
    Twenty five years passed. My friends remained my friends all that time and I really thought their story was a dear one of true love between a May and December couple, which caused both of them a lot, but worth it all if they could be together. Helen became elderly, but tried to remain young for Ethan. Ethan doted on Helen and they seemed to make it through the many struggles that their relationship brought to them.
    Two days after New Years Day a few years ago, I got a letter from Ethan. It had five one hundred dollar bills in it. It was a letter to me telling me that he and Helen had committed suicide on New Years Eve and that I should contact the Sheriff’s Office to let the authorites know where they were. He described where to find the key to his house. He thanked me for my friendship and for the legal work I’d done for him. He told me that as their “personal representative” I was to contact their family members and arrange for cremation and the distribution of their ashes on the Grand Teton.
    The $500 was to cover expenses for the trip to Jackson Hole.
    Needless to say I was shocked and saddened. I called the Sheriff only to learn that his office had also gotten a letter as had the coroner. They had sent an obituary to the local newspaper and the Denver Post. (Covering all bases). For a while I was under investigation for assisting the suicides, but that soon was dropped. They had done it the old fashioned way, carbon monoxide in their SUV.
    After the coroner had removed the bodies, I went to their country home, found the key and went inside. They had arranged their portraits on the kitchen table showing themselves in happier times and had their Frank Zappa posters prominently displayed. The Christmas Tree was lighted and there were two liquor glasses on the coffee table (bourbon) and an open pack of cigarettes. The ash tray had three or four butts in it. A box of chocolates was opened. Diabetic syringes were next to the couch. The book “Final Exit” was next to the syringes.
    As their “personal representative” I was tasked with doing the probate, disposing of the unused food and figuring out what to do with all that was in their file cabinets and–what to do with the “grow room” I found in the garage. (Two dead plants of unkown species).
    I contacted Helen’s children who were shocked but extremely angry with their mother. Estrangement is too mild a word to describe their attitude toward her. They were willing to cooperate with me to get what money Helen left them–but other than that–good riddance to bad memories was the message I got.
    I did all that I was supposed to do–but it wasn’t easy for me to stay on task. I was upset with my friends for doing what they did. Old age is part of life and they must have known that Helen would become elderly long before Ethan would be in the same boat. Ethan had health problems, but he was still a young man and had many good years ahead of him. Why did she have to drag him down with her?
    I’m against assisted suicide. I’m against suicide altogether–I think. I do believe that we were put here for a purpose, that suicide is the epitomy of arrogance and is most often a cry for help. I know that some feel differently, and I respect those feelings–but for me, tomorrow is always a new day and something good will happen, maybe not today, or tomorrow, but one day soon. I believe that we are better than animals–dogs, cats, cattle, horses. We are all unique, as Gerry says often, and a creation of the Creator, whomever or whatever the Creator is. Let life proceed naturally, it will end naturally soon enough. Take of what life has to offer you every day, but don’t live one more day than you’re supposed to.

    • Bernard, I wept as I read your letter. It opens many doors — love, hope, despair, faith, togetherness, devotion and more. There is no room for judgment here. There is room only for wonder.

      Gerry

  16. I would just ask “Kendra” one question; if I as a terminally ill patient asked not just once but many times for enough medication to end my pain and suffering, should my request be granted or denied? Bearing in mind the fact it was MY life, the requests were mine, and I don’t share the religious beliefs of some that say I “should” suffer.

  17. Is the right to be treated like a dog, some new personal injury movement in the Bar..?
    Yes, we all luv man’s best friends, however, is some
    needle , and an exit from life, the way you want to drag this issue, into broader human relations ?
    Seems like some dog wagging the tale approach.
    Most people don’t like picking up the pile of crap,
    left by some lawyer’s pooch.

  18. Is Margaret a dog ?
    How can we blame God if God is not performing miracles, all life forms meet an end where life expires. Time waits for nobody. Are lawyers healing by promoting some
    needles, or just playing God ?
    Morphine nation seems to be the new Med plain of
    older boomers in a strapped bail out economy.

  19. Dear Susan:
    I am not a medical doctor, nor can I play God, via WWW. I have no power to judge you, or render your medication requests, be they hypothetical-or other.
    But let me say this:
    Have you ever seen a person go through Alzheimer’s disease.
    I have. What happens in many instances: something in the brain shuts off the person from eating. It is so painful for all to watch. We go day after day, seeking for one to eat, for life sustaining measures. They fail. The person wilts away, mere skin and bones, no firing of the synapes.
    Some are so ignorant of that disease, I was, until I saw what it did–not to a dog, but a very beloved person.
    Then, what happens.
    In the dark of night the person with that disease is flopping back in forth in bed. Again, it is painful to watch.
    Then, a doctor, who some say was French, gives a shot, and later there is a call. The person never woke up from the sleep, last rest.
    Some other person here said a horse(equine friend) can’t tell one when it is time for the morphine shot.
    Some times people can’t express that either—- but I won’t elaborate. It is so painful the whole process, it is even hard to just put into words, into digital expressions, which I fail to do adequately.
    I am sorry Susan, I don’t know you, your age, your situation, never met you. I am in no position to judge you or that. As to assumption on this belief or that, or religious ones, or other dogma, none of my comments even, went there. Sorry, Susan, I am in no position to even wade into your hypo.
    What I described was not some hypo, nor was it about some DOG, Alice (the beloved black lab)out in the middle of a pond, on thin ice.( in a spark to get views)
    However, you changed the hypo, almost like some dry law school academic exercise.
    Yes, where people in a presto, play judge for a day, or God for a ethics CLASS, the most clever one eager to please the PRAWF
    I have no power to entertain the excellent question you raised, nor can I since a medium of some vapors in WWW world, allows me no means to make an informed decision about the full nature of the situation you raise.
    Who can answer the question you raise.
    Sorry, it is not me, under the WWW circumstances

  20. Bernard–you tell a beautiful and moving story. However, I must disagree with your conclusion. Having watched the person I loved most in the world suffer, with pain which could not be controlled, assisting her death would have been a kindness to her and a blessing to me and my family.

    Unfortunately, not all pain is manageable. Not all suffering is controllable. I began volunteering in a hospice after my mother’s passing and have seen easy deaths and horrific ones.

    I will not put anyone who loves me through what I went through. There are times when tomorrow–or any time in the future–is not better.

  21. Bernard,

    Thanks for sharing the story. I am sorry you had such a painful time. I hope your friends found what they were looking for and that you have healed.

    Peace,
    ~Jess

  22. Same old same old, if I even need to mention:
    Oh, Hunter S Thompson,
    Gonzo, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Aspen at 67, did the same thing as Hemmingway did…
    Hard boozing, for too long, greased the slippery slopes.

  23. “Best of all he loved the fall
    The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
    Leaves floating on the trout streams
    And above the hills
    The high blue windless skies
    Now he will be a part of them forever”.

    Ernest Hemingway – Idaho – 1939, an eulogy for a friend, inscribed in
    Ketchum Idaho.

    He was the best.

  24. I support the right of a person to choose his or her own fate under such circumstances, but I worry that this is just the first step toward a world in which insurance companies will one day offer financial incentives for the surviving family members of people who choose to end their lives rather than undergo treatment that would ultimately be much more expensive to the insurer than a cash payout.

  25. Dog’s don’t pay taxes, vote, express views on Iraq, bailouts, or are subject to drafts(Nam).
    Oh, I get your drift, dogs are treated better than citizens in Wyo, etc, when you have people like Dick Cheney, and Al Simpson as EL KINGO political kats.
    If some person, who none of us know, is in a dire predicment in life, what that person does with his life, is pretty much that person’s biz, as long as he
    don’t hurt others, is the feeling a lot have out on the high plains, & kinda have.
    So, what Doc in Wyo found Cheney unfit to be in the ranks with just other men of his age, regular normal citizens ?
    That must have been some real fine medical prognosis. Cheney has been on some medical dole, and has a record for costing more money than any person on earth, and he was in a wheel-chair, when his VP sucessor took the oath.
    Maybe Sue can get her drug requests filled with all the influence Cheney and Simpson have with God, with the King, with the Saudi’s, with the Mexico piplines, you name it, they will make the rest pay for the FOOLS follies that befell this nation for the last 8 years of reckless pursuits.

  26. FYI: NPR had a story tonight about arrests of a right to die organization in Georgia. They discussed the Final Exit Network as well. It’s a discussion that’s “on point” if you’re interested.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=101164292

  27. I still do not like all this talk about death. It is a subject I want it to be far away and unknown to me. My dog doesn’t worry death so why should I. I just wish people had a tail to wag. What a nice non verbal that would be.
    SO what to do when the suffering becomes to much. I hope that decision doesn’t have to be made, I have got to start driving faster without a seatbelt.

  28. Knowing Wyoming, I don’t think its red state legislature would go for
    any form of assisted suicide.
    In the old days, if the Chief’s old wife, could not keep up with the rest of the tribe, as the snows and hard winds descended on the high plains, she was left alone, as fate set in.

  29. Excuse me, but I meant to add, that any discussion on dogs and rights should hardly exclude mention the late great Melvin:
    This from the NYT:
    “He(Melvin) speaks of how, with all its emotional interpersonal intensity, arguing before a jury is like making love. He talks incessantly about his beloved dogs, the three that sleep with him nightly and his fourth and favorite, Weldone Rumproast 4th, who died recently. He boasts of the 72 books he says he’s written –…..” From NYT April 1993.

  30. To Kendra, I can only say I found it rather odd that you couldn’t answer my question of 3/2. First of all, I am not a terminally ill patient, and yes it WAS a hypothetical question. But if I were in fact terminally ill, and I didn’t choose to suffer a long, agonizing death but preferred to make the process a short, merciful quick end instead, and made the personal request for that (not to keep me alive indefinitely), do you believe my request should be granted or denied? It seems to me to be a simple enough question.

  31. If getting an answer of death laid at someone’s door( hypo) is so big, why did she not lay that at Gerry’s. Manor, since he put up matters, as the master of that universe, but then the trigger question, was not answered, too, but, was that not odd, in Sue’s quest to find some terminators.

  32. I suggest you, Susan, carefully read the NPR piece put up by David on the members of the Georgia exit group that were recently arrested,
    No on this Board responded to your hypo,
    who identified him(her) self as a Doctor, liscensed M D.
    why you put your hypo to a person who is not a M D.,
    is most bizarre.

  33. Well, Meg, I’ll just have to disagree with your POV and leave it there, out of respect for Mr. Spence.

  34. Susan:
    No problem, life is filled with POVs, despending on many things. I know you have great respect for Mr Spence, if one does not share all his POVs, no disrepect is meant.
    By the way, I had to plug in google to figure out what POV was.
    POV = point of view.

  35. My mother was dying of heart failure in the 1980’s when there was no opening things up, fixing a side of one chamber, etc. It was a death sentence to a woman who was in her early 60’s and had children while into her 40’s with a husband 10 years her senior. My father knew he would live without her, not the plan. My mother battled having to take so many pills to survive, she was angry but then something in her decided to chase death up that tree. She lived calmer, took in less stress and my father began to look younger. The torch had been passed to him to carry his love and care of his wife, his troubled son and his teenage girls. As a couple, I watched them come into a balance and I began a close relationship with a man I had never known. My dad.

    Two years past, my mother gathered more friends and interests. My father worried about medicines and etc for the first time. She finally went to the hospital for the last time and my mother was found dead on Friday the 13th, her lucky day she always claimed. Mom was brought back and went off to ICU for 6 more terrible days. My mother did not go gently into that night, she fought to live up to the very moment.

    My father and I knew she would just weaken til her heart gave up her spirit. Like keeping a butterfly alive, I whisphered to my dad. He left the room, all 5ft 5 of him straight, it had to be turned off. His love for her could not have made the wrong decision, but at 74 with 3 children 21,22,and 28 they would not take his signature alone. My father returned to the room a broken man and only I would sign with him. I was her girl, her oldest daughter and later I was to discover the most like my father.

    Mom left this world as a baby enters it, she lost sight and went to fetal positon. It haunted me for almost 20 years, until at 40, I had my son. I saw the cycle. She fought to stay, because she had so much to stay for here.

    From my experience of birth, I am sure my son was fighting to stay where he was at also. My little guy had to yanked out good, he also doesn’t go gently. Watching her passing no longer haunted me.

    My father stayed long enough to see us into adulthood. It was the path he gently set that I walk and I found out he was the fighter. Dad could have gone with her, but he was left with plan gone backwards. It was his job to stay and finish the love they started.

    Courage is to live on afterwards. I found my brother dead, I know suicide also. If you knew the agony you were to cause, you would not do it.

    That is why it is insane.

  36. Laura, thank you for sharing your story, struggles in life.
    Suicide is a tradegy, for many.
    I became curious about the bizzare incidents surrounding James Foresstal. A short recap:

    “In the early hours of May 22nd 1949 the first U.S. Secretary of Defense James Vincent Forrestal fell to his death from the 16th floor window of Bethesda Naval hospital, where he was treated for “depression”.

    An official U.S. Navy Medical Review Board convened on his death, after examining all doctors and witnesses who were in the vicinity, could not establish the reason for Forrestal’s fall (i.e. suicide, homicide, accident), and although an autopsy was performed, the autopsy report has never been made public. The peculiar circumstances of Forrestal’s death, and the U.S. government’s withholding of the complete report of the review board until 2004 has led to much speculation and controversy. ”

    And the rest of the story:

    http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread432033/pg1

  37. Robert Nix DVM

    I came onto Mr Spence’s website looking for legal help and stumbled upon this and the tears began to flow as I remembered my mother’s slow agony as she died from Lou Gehrig’s disease. I was there for most of the year as she lost so many of her abilities as the nerves in her body died making her endure unbearable suffering . She lost her movement, her speech, her ability to feed and even chew easily as the disease imprisoned her in her body with her fully aware the next day would only be worse and she would lose even more of her abilities. My father and I kept her at home and along with one very special person cared for her every need and tried to give her comfort. The doctor treating her disease never asked her how or if she wanted to fight this disease but could only offer feeding tubes and tracheosotomy tubes to delay the inevitable. He never heard her cries from the pain her body experienced or her begging for us to shoot her. She encouraged me in my quest to become a veterinarian and I think I can almost remember when she said to me that she thought I would be very good at it. As I saw her deteriorate, I saw the pleading look for release from this life that I have seen in those pets whose spark of life is fading yet the body keeps them here.
    And with those pets often in the arms of those who have loved them, I have gently ended their suffering and eased their passage into death and release from the untreatable suffering. I often wonder if I as her son with knowledge and access to easing her passage should have done more. Yet I know she would have not wanted me to sacrifice the rest of my life to end her suffering and that this struggle I am embarking upon to right some of the wrongs in this profession of veterinary medicine is what she would want me to do. For in its way, her death has made me unafraid of whatever will happen to me. For nothing professional bodies or corporations can do to me can be worse than watching her slow death, powerless to give her the comfort I pledged to give to animals in suffering.

    Thanks for letting me post.

    Robert J Nix DVM

  38. To My Dad:

    Remember when the tree fell on that black cow? Poor thing, she ran under a tree for shelter during that summers thunderstorm but the tree didn’t survive the storm and fell on her. The storm killed the tree but not her. We found her on the second day after the storm, alive, struggling still against the mighty tree that pinned her to the ground.
    Remember how you turned the truck around and headed back to the house and I was frantic that we didn’t stay to get the mighty oak off the cow and free her? In the mind of the child I was — The problem was so simple: daddy picks up the mighty oak — the cow runs free as if it never happened and rejoins the herd with a mighty story of the day the tree fell. Tah-dah!!

    Where are we going? Why are we leaving her under that tree? Why did you turn the truck around? I advocate for her as fiercely as an 8 year old can.

    To get my gun. I can’t help her. She won’t live. She’ll just suffer.

    No no no I beg. We get to the house, I run I to the refrigerated oasis of our air conditioned house. I appeal your decision to mom. She affirms your decision.

    I stay in the house. You leave. Echo of one simple shot. She’s gone. Chain saw, firewood for the winter when the refrigerator is outside and we are in —
    Tractor hauls the cow away– done.

    Years later, a tree falls on you Dad. A tree called cancer. I’m no child. I’m grown. You won’t live. You’ll just suffer. I don’t turn the truck around and get the gun. I sit with you and wait for death to come. Day in day out for too many days I wait with you for a bullet from God. But in the see hours when you are too weak, too drugged, too out of it for us to talk in my heart I ask you. Should I go get the gun, Daddy? I don’t do it. I wait with you for the magic bullet from the sky–I beg God to do it–he takes his jolly good time–months later you are finally free from suffering.

    Although Im not the idiot I was when I was 8 begging for the life of the cow; My actions were not any more informed when you were suffering than they were that day we found the cow under the tree.

    And this is what I wonder. Was I right or wrong for not getting the gun? And if I had the guts to ask you when you were lucid and not the coward I was only asking in the see hours when you couldn’t really answer — what would you have said? And do you hold it against me? I know you don’t but I do.

  39. Life is often intermixed with currents less than lucid.
    Kind of ironic, I have never liked the genie of nuclear power being out of the Jar, as nuclear arms are the great curse of the world since the time in 1945, that the A Bomb was exploded in the deserts of White Sand–the Trinity Site.
    Later, the C hits me…. and what is the remedy, Uranium pellets called seed implants.
    Now, I go through the airport screening and alarms go off, like I am
    real hot. The other day, my wife was with me, and said to the XRAY–Arama tech, to check on the screen near his nuts.
    The airport techies looked at her, with a look like they were about to arrest her.
    I took uranium pellets rather than being cut on.
    We all have to make unplesant decisions in life.
    I feel that all is AOK with
    Vicki and her Pa..
    But, it is not something to put in the right- wrong file, people do the best they can, under difficult circumstances.
    That is all that can be expected.
    If this is considered intermixing in a conversation, where I should not be popping off, then please excuse this story on C…

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