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Live and let die

Published July 05. 2014 09:00AM

I got my very first dog when I was in my 30s.

Not because I didn't want one before that, but because it was the first time in my life I was able to do so.

Zosia was part rottie and part shepherd.

She was very good with other people (especially children), but hated other dogs.

When my youngest daughter was an infant, Zosia would sleep under her crib. Should my daughter begin to stir or whimper in the middle of the night, Zosia quickly came into my room to alert me.

If I didn't get up to respond right away, Zosia would growl at me in annoyance as she stood in the doorway, looking back and forth from me to the baby's room.

She was a good dog.

We had that dog for 12 years, and she was a cherished member of my family.

She typically slept upstairs in the bed with me and would barrel up the stairs to claim her spot.

Over the years, we watched as her pace slowed when she traversed the stairs.

I remember quite vividly the day she decided she couldn't make it up the stairs on her own anymore, and in true "Marley and Me" fashion, my husband tenderly carried her up the stairs.

One day however, she cried out when my husband lifted her.

Shortly thereafter, I made the decision to purchase an air mattress and sleep on the floor in the living room with her.

As soon as I would begin to stir in the morning, her tail would bang wildly against the floor until I would acknowledge and pet her.

Eventually, it became too difficult for her to even get up and walk outside to relieve herself.

We tried helping her, but it caused her so much pain, and it broke my heart to hear her cry.

We knew the time had come to end her suffering and constant pain.

Putting my sweet girl down was the hardest thing I ever had to do, and I cried for days.

However, I knew that if I were in her shoes (or paws, as it were) I wouldn't want to suffer in tremendous pain and just barely continue to exist.

Between my two jobs and various associations, I get to meet a lot of people.

I am always honored when someone feels comfortable enough with me to share the intimate details of their lives.

I recently met a senior who was in her mid-80s and suffering terribly from cancer.

She has lost a lot of weight, and everyday tasks have become too difficult and painful to accomplish.

She confided in me that she was suffering and tired and, with no hope for a cure, just wanted it to be over.

I was then informed that she had been looking into assisted suicide in another state.

At first, it was a bit of a shock to hear; but after a moment, I completely understood and hoped that she would be able to get what she needed in order to end the suffering.

She told me that because they had discussed the matter with an employee of an area agency that someone was now trying to put her into a nursing home saying that she must have "mental problems" to be talking in such a manner.

Now she has to be worried about someone removing her from her home and locking her in a strange environment somewhere where the inevitable will happen anyway.

I could understand having concern if this were a healthy, younger individual who just can't deal with life anymore and then taking steps to get them professional help, but that's not the case here.

If we have enough compassion to help our beloved pets cross the "rainbow bridge" when there is nothing more that can be done to ease their pain and give them some quality of life, why can't we extend that same compassion to our beloved humans?

When you think about it, doesn't it just boil down to pain management?

Today, only four states have legalized physician-assisted suicide, but perhaps that needs to change.

Before you think of me as being a complete heathen, consider this: If it is OK for a physician and a family member to make the decision to remove a patient from life support, subsequently ending the patient's life without the patient's knowledge or their consent, why then can't a terminally ill patient with no hope of recovery be allowed to make that decision for herself?

Think about it.

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