Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker.
The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle. I examined Belker and found that he was dying of cancer.
I told the family that we couldn’t do anything for Belker and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought that it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting his old friend for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on.
Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion.
We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animals’ lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly piped up, “I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation.
He said, “People are born so they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, that’s why they don’t have to stay here as long.”
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