Is it Right to Play God?…Sasha’s Story

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By Liz

Is it ever right to play God? I know I am not the only one who has ever been posed with this question. My faith and my religion, tell me NO, it is not ok; however, when it comes to another living creature suffering, what is the right thing to do?

Just recently we had the agonizing task of choosing to put our aging, ailing dog down. Sasha was our first rescue dog and when we got her, she was a year and a half old that was back in 2005. Sasha was a Shiba Inu, a distinct Japanese breed. Shiba Inus are alert dogs that are intelligent with fiery personalities, well tempered and affectionate. Sasha exhibited all of these traits and more.

Like most breeds, Shiba’s are also prone to health issues, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and hip dysplasia. As Sasha aged, we watched our once vibrant, happy and energetic dog start to struggle with age and some health issues. The past two years have been exceptionally bad.

Sasha used to love to go on walks, the first few years we had her, she would accompany me on my endurance walks up to 3 miles; 3 to 4 times a week.  Sasha would also love running around in our then back yard that was on about a ½ acre of land.

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Sasha loved to hunt, and unlike a typical dog’s prey, her penchant was for reptiles; and that yard had plenty of them.  She would spend much time out in the back yard looking for turtles, frogs, lizards and geckos. If she found any, she would pin them down with her paws.   She wouldn’t kill or eat them, she just liked to hunt and trap them.  In fact, you could say that Sasha had refined taste; she was very particular about what she ate. Her favorite treats were gourmet dog cookies, but if we really wanted to spoil her (and occasionally we did) she would indulge on wine infused salami and aged, smoked gouda…the other dogs could not have cared less, they would have been just as happy eating cat turds off of our front lawn.

Sasha was a great family pet, she loved and watched over the family, like great guard dogs do. So about two years ago, when we noticed her walking distance was becoming harder for her to handle, on the walks that she loved so much, we knew she was starting to age and starting to slow down.

Her walks and activity level became shorter and fewer, however, her trips to the vets had increased.  The vet had prescribed her inflammatory and pain pills, low and short doses at first, but over time, those had changed and increased as they were having no effect on her.  About a year ago, Sasha’s whining and crying had started to become noticeable and we knew it was due to the arthritis she was suffering in both her front and back legs. At this time, I personally had to have a full knee replacement, because I could not deal with my own physical pain, so I can imagine what Sasha was feeling. 

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We watched Sasha suffer from arthritis, knee and hip pain as well as cataracts; and over a two year time span, these conditions were becoming increasingly worse. We had now reached a point where watching Sasha stand up, sit down or try to crouch to relieve herself was excruciating for her. Her legs were severely stiff as she would try to walk across each room in our house. We were now taking Sasha to the vet approximately every two weeks not only due to her intolerance of pain, but now also the constant medications were wreaking havoc on her digestive system and stomach.




The final breaking point came at what was to be her was her last trip to the vet. She was suffering from dehydration and our vet prescribed her another round of medication to help her stomach, however, when we would try to administer the doses at home for the recommended upcoming week, Sasha refused. She spent the next day or two refusing her medications, even after my husband did his best by getting down on the floor and trying various methods and trickery to get her to take it, but Sasha was to smart and stubborn to take it. Heartbreaking as it was, we could see in her eyes and in her face…she had, had enough.

Failing after many attempts of trying to get her to take her medications, and now she had also stopped eating and drinking, my husband and I knew the moment and the decision that we never wanted to make was upon us. With many tears and heavy hearts, we chose to put our beloved Sasha down.

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We had chosen a vet that performed pet euthanasia at home.  While at first, we were not entirely sold on this concept as it was a little out of our comfort zone, we came to realize that not only would this be more comforting to Sasha, as she would not have to have her final impressions of this world, in a cold, sterile vets office but it would also help bring closure for our other 3 dogs. Them being able to see and smell her body, they would not constantly be wondering…”Where did she go?” and “When is she coming home?”

As heartbreaking and gut wrenching as this process was, I would like to think that Sasha would suffer from physical pain no more and that she was assured that we loved her and that we were present in her final moments.  As both my husband and I, feverously tried to hold back tears of grief, we hugged her and told her we loved her and that we would see her again one day and expected to see her running and playing in all her youthful doggy glory as she once was. My husband sat on the floor at her bedside, kissing and stroking her head as she peacefully transitioned to The Rainbow Bridge.

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When it was over and the vet took her away to be cremated, both my husband and I were consumed with regret and wanted nothing more than to have our Sasha back.  This feeling of grief and pain went on for days and had me questioning what kind of a Catholic am I?  A bad one if you would have asked me, because this act of “playing God” went against everything that I had known and believed in, but on the other hand, I would remember witnessing the pain Sasha would endure, getting up from her bed to be let outside, the constant crying; and what I can only describe as “diesel truck engine” like panting due to her pain. What kind of Catholic would I have been to let her suffer? The answer to these questions, I will never know, until God himself tells me on my judgment day.  Until then, I will live with the both the guilt of taking another life and the acceptance that I have relieved another soul from physical suffering.

 


Affording to “Pay it Forward”

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By Liz

My life and circumstances have not always been easy and like most people I have had struggles and hardships at different times in my life.  However, whether the strain was emotional, physical or financial I have always known that I have been blessed.

You see, like you, I have been chosen to be a child of God and He has given me the greatest gift of all: free will to choose him as my God, my Father and my Creator, so I have always felt the desire to give back and to help others, after all, it is what we were created to do.

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But what happens if you feel like you can’t afford to give back?  Society has perpetuated a notion that, “giving back” has a monetary value to it and only by this avenue alone will we make a difference. This is entirely untrue for both the giver and the receiver. Giving of one’s time is just as valuable as money, if not more so.

We have all seen and heard ads for the conglomerate types of charities asking you to give financially; tugging on our heart strings making us feel guilty if we don’t whip out your checkbook at that very moment to help their cause. Now, I am not trying to bash some of these worthwhile causes, many of them do much needed research and work and many use the funds wisely and efficiently, however some larger and well known charities are operating on a “for profit” budget, so a large portion of our dollars that we donate go to paying their sometimes hefty salaries and go to throwing large, garish parties to bring in even more profit.

When I left the corporate world, it didn’t take me long to feel the restlessness of extra time on my hands. Don’t get me wrong, managing a household of 7 people and 4 dogs takes up a lot of time, but unlike before, when I did not have the time to donate physical time for a cause or charity that was close to my heart, I now found myself in a position to do so.

The question before me was: with so many needs for local volunteers and charities how did I want to make a difference? I started to investigate some of my local organizations that were looking for help. I had approached this as if I were researching a large purchase for my home.  I felt deep down, if the cause did not resonate with me, then both myself and the organization were not going to benefit.




I was not having any luck with my search, until one day after Sunday services I mentioned to my priest my dilemma. He actually pointed me in the direction of one of the community’s food pantries. Later that week, I gave them a call and they were more than happy to have me come and help out. They had told me that if I wanted, I could volunteer a few times to see if it was going to be something I would want to continue doing before they added me to their permanent roster.  I went and volunteered for an afternoon shift of 3 hours of work in the back room of the pantry, packing up food for families in need. My fellow team mates were in their retirement years and older, and at first I thought this was not going to be a good match for me, but when the 3 hours were over, I had really enjoyed the work and the people enough to come back and do it again. I am happy to say, that I have been volunteering at this food pantry with the same great group of folks a few times a month for the past 3 years and I genuinely   look forward to each time it is my turn to help out.

So while we as a family do tithe to our church on a weekly basis, we have also given back in ways that may not be considered when thinking of charity.  Some examples of how we and you can give back without making a huge impact on your wallet and making the “for profit” charity organizations wealthier:

1.We have donated clothes, household items and furniture to Goodwill or Salvation Army that we no longer want or use.

2.We have donated old blankets, towels and a bag or two of cat or dog food to the local animal shelter.

3.We have purchased an extra bag or two of groceries for some of our neighbors that had fallen on hard financial times.

4.We have made extra batches of food or cookies for family, friends and neighbors that have had suffered a loss.

homeless5.We have collected items such as toiletries, socks and blankets over a year’s time and donated them all in one shot to the local shelters.

6.We have volunteered at charity walks and 5-K runs as staff members that pass out water or food, help people sign in and other organizational tasks.

7.We have given bottles of water, cups of coffee and bought lunches for people who were in obvious need as we passed them while we are out and about.

8.We have helped seniors play bingo at a retirement home.

9.We have read to children at “story times” at libraries and schools.

10.We have packed backpacks full of supplies for kids going back to school.

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Some have argued that giving back is purely a selfish act, that it makes one feel better about oneself or that they are waiting for a glorified pat on the back. Giving back is rewarding, I believe that Jesus gave of himself to us, over and over again and I have come to realize I have been blessed in so many aspects in my life; whether it be my health, my family and friends, the comforts and necessities that help me sustain my life, my intelligence, my patience and compassion, and the list of blessings and gifts that have been bestowed upon me goes on and on.  I am grateful and happy that I have the luxury to “give back” and I gladly look forward to doing and giving more of my time and efforts for many years to come.