I was just about to get ready to write a prompt explaining my feelings towards death in relation to my dogs; my thoughts were buzzing with the type of excited energy that makes you want to drop everything you’re doing and narrow in. But then, an interesting article popped up on my feed: 365 Writing Prompts, Now in French, Spanish, and Indonesian. Now, I’ve looked at posts like this before, and whether it be because of bad luck or poor article-choosing abilities, I typically find the prompts to be conventional and too structured. But I felt particularly intrigued, so I clicked on the link.

The prompt for today reads: Menagerie: Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?

I suppose this isn’t a terribly cool little prompt on it’s own… but it connects so well to what I was going to write, that I am in awe. It’s one of those moments where you question the meaning of “coincidence”.

Yesterday night, my parents broke the news to my brother and I that my dog, Nestle, has been diagnosed with cancer. My heart fluttered, and my stomach dropped an inch with the heavy news. It’s heartbreaking enough to hear cancer has begun to touch the life of someone close to you, but compounding this, is the fact that we just lost my other dog, Abby, to cancer as well. I sighed a little internally, brought down by the news. “But,” my dad added, “we caught the cancer early, and we’re going to have the rest of the legion removed on Friday.” A mix of relief and anxiety swirled in my gut; I wasn’t sure whether to cry or be happy. We don’t know if the cancer has spread into Nestle’s bloodstream, yet, and we may never know. All we have to do now, is cherish our time with him as much as possible.

The prospect of death saddens me greatly, and not for the reasons that it seems to sadden most others. To me, death serves as a reminder of how much more we could have cherished time with those we love; how much more meaning we could have packed into our words that we so carelessly flung at one another in the heat of the moment, in times of need; it makes me realize how much fuller we could have filled each other’s lives; it makes me question how aware we are of everybody’s existence; it makes me realize that that’s really all we tend to view each other as: an existence. Why does my dog have to have cancer in order for me to love him to my fullest capacity when I come home from work and I’m “just too tired to be excited to see him”? Why do the people we love have to be in a bad situation in order to gain our sympathy and full attention? And even when these dire situations arise, we often spend time with these people for one reason: they won’t be around much longer, so we want to fill their last moments with as much happiness as humanly possible. Is that not moderately selfish? I equate that to saying, “Oh, shit. Well now that I consciously know you’re going to be a goner soon, I’m going to give you as much love and attention as possible”.

I think that, we, as humans, tend to think in this way very often. Unless something is consciously brought to our attention, it is easy to brush off as inconsequential. And I don’t think that this is necessarily our fault. We live in a world where there is so much to take in; there are things happening here and there, people to meet here and now, and things to get done… we need selective attention, and it is beneficial to some degree. However, I feel as though this has become destructive. I feel as though we are beginning to place our political values, our social status, our priorities above valuing all life. When is it ever okay to physically or mentally oppress a group of people because of our own personal views? Bill Bullard once said, “Opinions are the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.” And this is so very true. When is it okay to ever hold your own personal standards and opinions to a higher priority than caring for a fellow human being? Why should it be okay for my actions to say, “Hi, Nestle. You don’t seem to be in any immediate danger, so I’m going to treat you as an accessory in my life, instead of being actively involved with you, and loving you as much as I can”? It’s so easy to treat all lives as a convenience for us, and we only realize this when we are robbed of them. It’s ludicrous. This selective way of thought may not be ingrained in us through any fault of our own, but it is our duty as a society to critically analyze the way it is impacting us. If we were to treat others with as much respect and esteem that they rightfully deserve, the world might be a better place, at least for me (perhaps this whole ‘be mindful of other’s presence’ is an issue unique to me). I’ve tried to engage more with people in a way that is ostensibly more engaging, and this has been able to bring me out of my shell, as well as allowed me to better connect with others. Life is a beautiful, beautiful thing; I want to treat it like a treasure, and sometimes, I wish there was just more love in the world. I wish there were more peace. I wish all of us could sit down, look one another in the eye, and see not a host of differences, but rather a multitude of similarities; the biggest similarity is: we are all human. We all crave love and a sense of belonging. And to me, it seems wrong to go on living life without full acknowledgement of these needs. It seems wrong to go on living life without cherishing our oneness as humans.

~C

PS – to answer the actual prompt, my dog(s) mean a great deal to me, and oftentimes I find myself viewing them as humans, not animals. Nestle brings joy to my heart every time I look him in the eye; he seems so innocently oblivious to all the “wrong” around him, and so full of all that is “right”. I don’t know, but his eyes just seem so bring and youthful, despite the situation he’s in; he gives me hope. Honestly (it’s kinda sappy) but it really inspires me to live the same way–happy as can be about my life, no matter which direction it takes me, and realizing that even in the midst of disheartening situations, we can still enjoy life.

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