It has been a sad week for me. We took our trusty hound to be put to sleep on Tuesday. A bad business. He really was on his last legs with a huge tumour on his side, but it’s a horrible thing to have to go and do and will haunt me for a long time.
What shocked me was feeling the life go out of him. I was holding his head and his breathing became shallower, his nostrils flared progressively less and the tension went from his neck. Then I let go and saw him twitch a little, his once powerful shoulders suddenly sunken and then expected him to turn his head to look at me – perhaps accusingly.
But instead his eyes were fixed ahead and his muzzle rested on the floor. My partner wanted to close his eyes, but couldn’t and I saw his lower eyelid livid red and starting to sag. And I realised he was definitively gone.
Entropy, whichever law of thermodynamics, blind watchmakers, all hadn’t prepared me to see the organising energy which is life simply disappear in front of my eyes. He went from faithful companion, pain in the ass, geriatric incontinent and once proud rosette and race winner to a heap of skin, bone, microbes and sagging eyelid.
Whatever else life is, it is the most extraordinary force. We all take it for granted and seldom actually see it disappear in front of us in modern life. It’s the first time I’ve actually been with a large living thing when it died. I dread being with a human at their end but recognise one day I likely will.
I was shocked and chastened by seeing the very end of a life – 6 stone in weight, 3.5 feet high, 6 feet sprawled, 45 mph cruising speed, a big powerful, dopey, loveable, furry, white socked, bad breathed, friendly to everyone, cat chasing, stair jumping, bed stealing, door greeting, under your feet getting, leaning on you when stroked, tiger striped ex-racing Greyhound.
He’s chasing bunnies again in his dreams and is at rest. It’s a stark reminder for me though of how fragile, precious and extraordinary simply being alive actually is. And I understand now, perhaps for the first time, what mourning means.