This week we said goodbye for the last time to Stuart, our beloved family dog. He was a long-eared, short-legged Beagle-Basset mix with soulful eyes and a waggly tail. Stu was with us a long time — from puppyhood to almost 15 (about 100 in dog years). In his younger days, he was playful and athletic, always eager for walks, and relishing every meal. He was a sweet, friendly little guy who greatly liked being petted, and he made many friends in our building during elevator rides.
In these last months, he lost almost all of his hearing and much of his eyesight, and with hip problems he found it increasingly painful to walk. His tail wagged less and less.
Now Stu’s suffering is over, and I’m glad for that. In this regard, we often treat our pets better than our fellow humans, accepting death as a reality and helping our animals to have a good death. But it’s hard. He added sparkle to the world. We loved him, and he loved us. In that way, he became part of us, and changed us for the better. I keep thinking he’s here, just in the next room, and then remember with a sharp pang that he’s gone.
Speaking of complex emotions, I recommend the edition from last week of the podcast This American Life . The first of its three stories related to a former physicist talking about Fermi’s Paradox, which raises the question of why, given the evidence we have that complex life can arise, we haven’t encountered any evidence of it elsewhere in the universe. The reporter felt sadness in thinking we’re existentially alone, and discovered that those around him couldn’t relate to that sadness.
The second story related to a couple in couple’s therapy with serious problems who discovered that talk was not the primary solution. The third was about a delightful 9-year-old girl who kept asking her father annoyingly big questions about the world. He worked on long scholarly answers, only to find that what she was really looking for was to connect with him. In short, three explorations of the modes of loneliness and possible paths to redemption.