The Talmud tells us that Adam and Eve felt much the same way after Cain killed Abel. Adam was so heartbroken over this, that he didn't have intercourse with Eve for 130 years. (see Talmud, Eruvin 18). Why bring more children into the world if they are just going to die anyway? But God wanted Adam and Eve to "be fruitful and multiply," so eventually they slept together again. And so it continues to this day.
Unlike my mother, I have had many, many companion animals over the years. And I have outlived all but the ones that are still with me. The fact of the matter is, the human lifespan is much longer than that of most animals. Which means that the individual animals who were alive when I was born 63 years ago are already dead, with perhaps the exception of a few long-lived species like parrots and Galapogos tortoises. Why should this be? Perhaps it is God's way of helping us deal with the impermanence of life on earth. I have grieved at the death of each of my animals, but I have also learned, over the years, that death is not something to be feared. It's a natural part of the cycle of life.
Animals seem to know when death is coming. I once had a dog named Shunka (which is Lakota for "dog") who would walk with me in the woods. As he got older he went deaf and was somewhat confused, perhaps from a minor stroke, but he knew the trail well. Every morning we would walk the same route, past the chicken coop, into the woods to the big oak tree, then back around to the house. One morning, we got as far as the coop when Shunka lay down and looked at me with his big brown eyes, as if to say, "I can't do this anymore." He then walked back to the house, and by morning he was dead. He had lived a good long life -- 18 years -- and was ready to go. I cried when I found his body, but I also knew that he was old and tired, and that nothing lives forever. We had those years of happiness together, and I still cherish those memories. Sometimes, when I walk in those same woods, I feel as if Shunka's spirit is walking with me. Maybe he is.
So my mother was wrong. While it is true that pets eventually die, it is not useless to have them. While they are with us, they give us much love and joy. And when they go, they help us accept the day when we, too, will cross that rainbow bridge and join the circle of life.
|Dawn in Pine County, MN|