To Die Like a Dog

President Trump Needs a Canine Correction
By Edward O’N. Hoyt, November 2019
dog and human hold hands
“He died like a dog.  He died like a coward.”
– President Donald J. Trump, October 27, 2019

And so landed another of the president’s grossly misinformed canine analogies. In his world, disgraced people get kicked out of society “like a dog.” They beg for money “like a dog.” They get cheated on “like a dog.” They get dumped “like a dog.” They get fired “like a dog.” (As Keith Olbermann once responded, “Have you ever fired a dog?”). Mitt Romney “choked like a dog” in his run for president. In one really confused analogy, he once mocked Ted Cruz for using his communication director as a scapegoat “like a dog.”

And then, the ultimate putdown. Dying like a dog. This, in the president’s mindset, is a pathetic, humiliating, degrading, cowardly way to go. Among the outrages of our times, one would be tempted to consign this to the whatever pile, but to one who has been blessed to love and be loved by a dog, to one who mourns a dog he or she has lost, it is absolutely infuriating.

This is how you die like a dog: After a life of love, loyalty, self-sacrifice, and the liberal giving of joy and hope and comfort, your faculties start fading surprisingly fast. While you are suffering, you nonetheless continually respond to the attention of your family with wags, because you want them to remain certain that while you are weak, your love is as strong as ever. But as much as you love them, you can’t fully engage, because your body and mind are failing. And even though you have reached a venerable age, and are effectively much older than the person or persons who brought you into the family, you still look upon them as parents, and your eyes silently communicate to them, “Mommy, Daddy, it hurts. I know I’ve been stoic through many bumps and bruises and heartaches and ailments, but this hurts and I’m scared.”

And the parents know what they must do—consent to end your brave and noble life. It is an act that they have been told by so many is best for you, but it is an act they will never forgive themselves for. And as the light fades, though you are still afraid, it means so much that the family you love is there with you, and you wag one more time, look at them like, maybe, this is my chance to do what I’ve always wanted to do, to go past the pats and the scratches and the licks and the games and the hugs, and just crawl inside their hearts completely.

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But your family leaves with a hole in their guts, and more guilt than any one should ever bear.  Each step without you is torture. Complete strangers see them in the parking lot and embrace them with all the comfort they can give to someone who just won’t be comforted. 

And one parent says, no, I thought I’d be able to come in to work this afternoon, but you understand, I just can’t. And I’m not sure tomorrow is going to work out, either. None of that can possibly make sense right now.

And your other parent says that no, I’m never doing this again. I’m never allowing a dog into my home, to love this much, but in the end, invite this much pain and guilt and horror into my life. 

But one day, one day maybe, these parents look into the eyes of some other dog, they feel you stir in their hearts, because that indeed is where you crawled in the end. And though they haven’t always felt you there, you’ve felt them, and you’ve helped them bear their pain, because that’s what you do. Because you’re a good dog.

And then, as they lock eyes with this other dog, and scratch the ears, a tail starts to respond— shyly, but then hopefully, even joyfully. Then, you whisper in the way only a loving heart can hear, “This one. Remember how much love you gave me? This one needs you to do that for her.  You needn’t feel guilty. I want you to feel that love again. I know it’s hard and it’s scary, but I’m here to help you. I’ll always be here.”

That’s how you #$%@-ing die like a dog.

Edward Hoyt is a freelance journalist and songwriter living in Baltimore.

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