Dog’s life journey of trials, tribulations

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

Long ago I read a book by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein filled with little rules of life, observations and proverbs. Things like, “Small change can often be found under seat cushions” and “Always store beer in a dark place.”

The one saying from those pages that was branded in my memory was, “When the need arises — and it does — you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don’t farm it out — that doesn’t make it nicer, it makes it worse.”

I didn’t take him literally. What it means to me is one day you’ll have to take your canine pal to the vet to check out of this life. This was going through my mind the other day when the family dog had to be put down after living on planet Earth for more than 14 years. We knew this time was coming, I wasn’t looking forward to it.

This day at the vet’s there were only dogs and their owners. I thought about our canine pals and their lives as I looked around the waiting room. As I did I realized I was looking at a timeline of a dog’s life.

There was a big hunky puppy there for a checkup; he looked like he was part golden Labrador. He was full of energy, wanting to check out every person and every other dog in the room, all the while sporting a big dog smile. He came up and plunked his huge feet on the bench beside me.

The world was new to this pup. So many things lay ahead — rabbits to chase, cats to run up trees, kids to play with, strange things to bark at, wallets to chew up, down comforters to pull out in the yard, a warm bed to curl up in and fall asleep, exhausted at the end of a big day.

Then there were a couple of dogs who were there to get patched up after running into some of those things that pop up in a dog’s life like grumpy people and cars.

Another Lab-type dog, a few years older than the pup, came out from the vet’s hallway. One side of his face and a shoulder had been shaved revealing numerous red wounds. My first impression was he had tangled with a cat or another canine. The owner said someone had shot him. All those little wounds were from shotgun pellets. They lived out in the country and the dog was used to running free.

“He only chases rabbits,” said his owner. “I think we have some new neighbors who just don’t know him.” That dog couldn’t wait to get back in their pickup truck and go home.

Across the room was a man cradling a pit bull pup that had been hit by a car, another hazard in a dog’s life. Even though the little guy had some wounds and didn’t want to move, he wagged his tail when the excited Lab puppy came up and touched noses with him. Even though the pit bull was hurting, there was still a big heart in there. It wasn’t just the wagging tail; you could see it in his eyes.

A snapshot of a dog’s life from a veterinarian’s office: From the beginning when everything’s new, to the trials and tribulations that lay in wait along the path of life until the end.

Not much different than ours, eh?

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him