Last night we had our dog put to sleep. His already weak heart suddenly gave out and we knew it was time to say goodbye.
Papino came to us through a series of, as it turned out, fortunate events four years ago. I had undertaken some work for his owner, who a few months later decided to move to Italy. Amongst all the possessions he left behind was his dog, Papino. Papino was handed around to a succession of carers as his owner repeatedly failed to pay each of them the boarding fees. We decided to rescue Papino from going to what would be a sixth carer in as many weeks. His owner never came back for him.
Despite the limitations of his physical heart, Papino was a dog who was all heart. Loving and placid, being close to us and being allowed to have his bone inside was all he needed to sink into contentment. At the same time, if there was ever a dog that wanted to prove himself, that was Papino. At the time he came to us we kept chickens. You can watch as each hen quickly establishes herself in the pecking order. Each time we acquired another chicken, Papino would attempt to stare her down only to back down in resignation soon after. He must have subscribed to the theory, “If you can’t beat them join them,” because he learned how to be one of the chickens including sleeping in their chicken coop, scratching in the dirt with them, and attempting to eat chicken grains (followed by hilariously comical gagging). He never quite mastered the knack of pecking grains but he acquired a taste for bread and would fight for his share if any was on offer.
He had many other idiosyncrasies including his ability to position his bed next to his water bowl in a way that he could drink just by turning his head while still lying prone, his eye for any escape chance so he could take himself for a walk to the end of the block and back then knock on the door to come in a few minutes later, and his personality change every time he came back from dog grooming, as if to say, “How could you let them do this to me?”
We watched last night as within the space of an hour his breathing became increasingly laboured and he could no longer perk up and wag his tail whenever his name was called. As he laid his head down for the last time, we told him he was off to the place where there is never a shortage of doggy bones.
As these things often do, it prompted a reflection on the fragility of life and the hope that we all have enough moments that count while we are still here to make them. In the context of this blog, our work – I don’t mean ‘job’ – is where most of us make our mark. It is irrelevant whether that mark is in teaching, health, entertainment, administration or as a part of a group that makes things, or whether it is paid or not.
I still hear people decide which job they should accept, whether it is time to do something new, whether a pay rise is better than a promotion, how a job title sounds, which level they report to, if a position with fewer direct reports is a demotion, on the basis of ‘what looks better on the résumé’. Really, who cares? You résumé matters only when you haven’t actually achieved something that does.
So go out and do things that are your best you because it’s all that counts in the end, and even if that thing is just being a loving pet dog, it is more than good enough.