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I don't remember how many pups Nisha had that night in 1970 (my wife tells me there were four) but all I can remember is the one that touched me and left his mark deep inside me. I cry each time I think of him. Each time I review this or think about him, I feel the pain.
Reflecting on the past I am not too proud of myself, I was selfish. I did the things I was supposed to do, but I did them more out of a sense of obligation and responsibility because that's what society said was acceptable, rather than actually caring. Even though, I can say, I did care about that Pup. The Pup we never got to name; he was tiny and fragile, and born with a severe cleft palate. When my wife first discovered him being rejected by his mom, she began to hand nurse him. He fit into the palm of our hand and, from time-to-time, when I remember or think of him, I instinctively look at my hands and I can see and feel him there. It's always painful.
At that time, I was a Petty Officer First Class with a family that included three kids. We had precious little finances to spare, nevertheless we took him to several vets. My wife informed me of this as we talked and remembered him. I have extensive difficulty in remembering details of events I'd rather not remember at all. All the vets said the same thing; put him to sleep, without any apparent feeling -- they seem to say, oh, well, that's the way it is. Perhaps, that is the way it is but why do we give into it so easily? It's a shame that people lose a sense of caring when they face repeated tragic events.
We found out that the on-base vet would see him, so we took him. This vet was a fine man. You could tell he loved animals and we could tell that he was in as much pain as we were, by the way he explained what was likely to be the Pup's future, if we decided to follow the process to keep him alive. It was grim, painful and failure was more likely than success.
I know we had him for several days, while we struggled with the what to do. I knew all along in my heart what was going to happened but living with denial is sometimes much easier than acceptance. As I said, I can look at my hands and see him there; I cried those many hours I held him and had an overwhelming feeling of helplessness and despair.
My wife told me that the on-base vet was kind enough to put him to sleep. I wasn't there when it happened, and I didn't remember how. It was just to excruciating for me to deal with. My wife handles these things much better than I do. We buried him near our home. In the end we did what we thought was best. I still question it and hope we did do what was right.
It's not the pup's passing or the pain that we endured during that brief moment in time while he was with us that matters but rather the legacy he left me. I learned how precious and precarious life is and what matters most doesn't usually come with a price tag. I didn't learn these things right away, it took many years of thinking of him – again-and-again. In the larger scheme-of-things, perhaps, his coming and passing doesn't seem to amount to much. But, it is astonishing that so small an event could have such an impact on my life.
For me it was a discovery of sorts. It's not that we mourn the passing of someone close and feel pain, many animals do the same, what makes us human is we wonder why?