Susie, the Westie, beloved of my oldest daughter, who came into our lives one rainy afternoon two summers ago.
We knew when she first arrived - a bedraggled, scrawny, half-blind, half-deaf, elderly castaway - that we wouldn't have her for very long.
There were ungracious people who took her dignity to denote a lack of personality, but by those who knew her best she was dubbed "deep thinker," "old soul," "Doctor of the Church," "Angel sent by God;" and to the other dogs she was a supreme being.
She was rescued several months ago from a severe bout of pancreatitis, but despite the home-made food and the doting care, old age became too hard to beat.
My daughter has been wondering for some time if it would be necessary to put her to sleep. She'd bounce back for a few days, showing a little more interest in life, and then fall back into a befuddled, weak state.
Finally, on Friday, both my daughter and my son-in-law called at separate times to ask what I thought. Susie was having a hard time breathing at night, she'd lost interest in her food, she couldn't really stand up by herself, she had become incontinent, and no longer lit up at the sight of her mistress.
I said it was up to them, and maybe they should consult the vet, but that whatever they decided, it would be ok. My daughter seemed to have resolved that today was the day.
I went to the Adoration Chapel and prayed. I heard nothing but a heavy silence.
On the way home in the car, however, I had a feeling of Susie, finding her own way toward death, as she found her way around the yard - not seeing, but sensing - a little confused, but not worried. I stopped the car. There was a text message from my daughter saying she didn't want to take her to the vet. I replied that she didn't have to.
But there was the fear of Susie's pain. She was such a stalwart little dog, a real soldier, never complaining. She must be suffering a lot. Surely it would be kinder.
Later, my daughter called me in tears. Susie had been euthanized. It had been a terrible mistake. My daughter realized when it was too late. Susie, the needle in her leg, had shown fear for the first time in her life.
I didn't try to say that it hadn't been a mistake. Because it was. I sensed beforehand and should have told my daughter clearly. She said she didn't understand why she hadn't known.
It was a mistake. But it wasn't a terrible mistake. We have learned something. Words are overpowering. They roll over you like rocks tumbling down a hill. They are noisy and pushy and brusque. But the truth is a still, small voice which enters your mind by stealth - you have to quiet down, stop speaking, and listen.
I know from experience that it's not always wrong to euthanize an animal. But in this case we knew. We knew, and we didn't listen. In our fear, we clattered and banged about with words, words which with their own inexorable, soulless logic lead us away from the truth.
Susie was sent in answer to a prayer. In her death she has also given us a gift - if I had followed my intuition, I never would have known how important it was to follow it. I might even have felt smug. But now, faced with the sorrow of having thrown something valuable away, I realize how important it is to push aside distraction and listen to the still, small voice. It's like the voice of the horses.
|Susie the bridesmaid, July 2010|
And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (Kings 19:11-12)