So I volunteered for a compassion case.
Compassion cases are animals that you take into your home knowing they are unadoptable. Maybe they are too old, or too sick, or have severe behavior problems. Maybe all three. You take them in, and you spoil the hell out of them, and then you hold them when they die. You are their last refuge. It is a hard and healing experience - for me, at least. These dogs are good for my soul. It's something I can bring out and show to myself when I'm having trouble remembering what kind of person I am. It's an experience I can point and say, "Do you see that, self? You made a difference to that one dog. You put kindness in the world that was not there before. And that kindness is a part of you now."
I'm calling her Chessa - because 32D is a bra size, not a name. Chessa means "peace." She is very old and very sick and very Real. She loves cheeseburgers and walks and car rides and butt scritches. She likes chasing cats and chewing on raw hides until her gums bleed. She is tired. She deserves peace in her final days.
It's easy to look at Chessa and get angry. How could people do this to her? What a cruel world! What a miserable, throw-away culture! But what if someone loved Chessa? What if, once upon a time, she was a little girl's best friend? What if she was stolen out of her people's car? Or slipped out the door and couldn't be found for months? Or they fell on hard times and had to give her up, and then lost track of her? What if she was someone's cherished companion?
What if she were my dog?
Then I would hope that there was someone to stand up for her. Someone to pull her out of animal control, give her a name, and provide her comfort as her days grow short and her nights grow long and cold. Someone to feed my dog cheeseburgers and kindness, no matter that her hair has been loved off, and she is loose in the joints and a little shabby. Every life deserves a little dignity, no matter how poor or weather-beaten the shell that carries it. And when the time comes, I hope there is someone to hold her gently as she makes her final journey - even if that person can't be me.
We must be the change we wish to see in the world.
So Chessa and I will go on car rides together. She will eat tastey food that is bad for her. She will have all the snuggles and butt scritches and soul rubs I have. And when the time comes, mine will be the last voice she hears. Telling her that she is a Good Dog. That she has Done Well. That she is brave and strong and beautiful. Worthy of love. And in the end, there will be peace for Chessa.
And peace for me.
Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne?
~ Auld Lang Syne (poem), Robert Burns