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Coping with Loss: Why Dogs Don’t Live As Long As People

The last few days have brought an unusual amount of sadness into our lives, with the passing of several beautiful tripawds that we have come to know and love. I’m doing my best to cope, but it’s hard.

Tripod Jerry resting on comfy bed

Today, this came in through the Bone Cancer Dogs mailing list. We hope it helps everyone feel just a little better.

Why Dogs Don’t Live As Long As People
by Robin Downing, DVM

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owner, his wife, and their little boy were all very attached to Belker and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family there were no miracles left for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, the owners told me they thought it would be good for the four-year-old boy to observe the procedure. They felt he could learn something from the experience.

As Belker’s family surrounded him, the little boy seemed so calm, petting the old dog 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 animal lives are shorter than human lives.

The little boy, 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, “Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right?”

The four-year-old continued, “Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

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