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I love dogs a lot — people too

·4 min read

I was thinking about our family’s first dog. Her name was Pebbles. She was supposed to be a male poodle and black. She showed up as a white mixed breed and female.

Not to worry, our daughter, Amy, enjoyed her company like no other. Pebbles would see her to the door to get on the school bus and climb into the bow window to welcome her home each day.

She was a great, loving, kind and beautiful dog. After many years of happiness, joy and companionship, she became ill, could not move her body, and began to suffer immensely.

It was a most difficult time for our daughter and family, but most of all it was a painful time for our suffering pet who had lived her life by bringing so much joy to others.

What was one to do? We heard about the "rainbow" bridge and we had a love for that precious gift of life that had brought so much joy to our home.

Should we let her suffer through misery and pain, or should we provide some justified and earned relief for her journey across that bridge?

Lloyd "Pete" Waters
Lloyd "Pete" Waters

While thinking about that episode in our life, I thought about another story and friend; only this time it was one of the human kind.

This lady had lived a full life, but the years of aging and disease had taken their toll on her weakened and worn out body. One day, not so unexpectedly, she had a most serious stroke.

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She lost all movement of most of her entire body except for blinking her eyes; she could no longer eat, talk, sit, walk, roll over, move or any of her previous activities. Her misery was quite obvious and her journey was nearing an end.

The doctors determined that she would never improve. She was placed in a long-term care facility.

My wife and I went to visit her on several occasions. To keep her comfortable was the only option possible, I thought.

And then while returning a second time; I noticed a stomach tube had been surgically provided to feed her. I wondered then if the tube was placed so that she might prolong her suffering too.

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Or was it for the purpose of providing some relief more for the family than the patient?

The following week, another visit was made and I discovered a tracheostomy had been performed on this fine lady’s throat to assist her breathing.

Again I pondered the immense suffering for this beautiful little blue-eyed woman. I wondered what her opinion might have been had she had a voice in the matter.

That’s a problem sometimes when one does not have a voice in their own decision making.

Our friend died three weeks later.

In discussing euthanasia, politicians are reluctant to get involved. Several states, however, have passed "death with dignity" laws that assist one’s suffering near the end of life.

Maryland, unfortunately, has not been so progressive in dealing with end-of-life issues.

I sometimes think we treat our pets with more honor, dignity and care than we treat our human friends and loved ones when it comes to death.

There have been advancements in letting one decide what care should be provided near the end of life by developing a "living will" to say explicitly what you want done.

If you feel your health is declining and you should have a medical emergency, you can decide that you do not want any resuscitation efforts to be made to preserve your life.

This living will serves to provide a voice in your own medical treatment during the last stages of life. It also helps to prevent your family from making those gut-wrenching decisions.

Since many politicians and others have continued to ignore an individual’s right to have some assistance in relieving one’s suffering and permitting a person to end life’s journey, perhaps there is a simple remedy.

Perhaps a "death and dignity last testament" could provide some direction and relief in terminating a suffering, painful and miserable life with no significant improvement or treatment possible. The opportunity to receive a "magic" pill of euphoria would be just fine.

I know there are many viewpoints to be had on this topic, but the inevitable destination from birth is death. 

Why can’t we die with a little more dignity and respect as humans?

I sure loved Pebbles a lot.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Herald-Mail columnist.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail: Choices for care, mercy at the end of life are crucial