One week ago, my 14-year-old dog, Emmet, who’d spent nearly his whole life with me, was euthanized. Since then, I’ve been plagued with regret and guilt over all the many ways in which I deprived him of a happier life. I didn’t take him for enough walks, I got frustrated with him too often, I didn’t recognize soon enough that he was getting tired with age (rather than just being stubborn), and I spent a good chunk of his life resenting the fact that I had a dog at all, especially a terrified, fear-biting dog like Emmet. Every thought, every memory, was of my betrayal of this sweet dog who loved and trusted me completely.
This morning at 2am, I woke up with a sudden thought, “I’m making a choice to think this way. This isn’t the only narrative.” Much like any historical account, you can string events together in vastly differing narratives, putting emphasis on different events, and assigning cause and effect to help support your claims. After I had this thought, I told myself another version of Emmet’s life, and it sounded just as true, if not more true.
Emmet was a dog in need with behavioral challenges that made him unadoptable through common methods. I took him in and gave him the best home I could. I made mistakes, I was sometimes selfish and lazy, but I always, always kept him safe and healthy, no matter what. I loved him more with every passing year, and gave him a better and better life with every passing year. In the end he was a much better and happier dog, I was a better and happier person, and at least in part we owed that to each other.
Now I can think fondly of little Emmet and I can miss him. And it’s no longer unthinkable for me to some day open up my heart and home to another dog in need.