Psychologists point to the importance of integrating sorrow into our lives. All world religions point to it as well. Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Buddha: “Our sorrows and wounds are healed only when we touch them with compassion.”
No one necessarily wants to feel sad, but sorrow is a healthy emotion. It’s part of the fabric of homo sapiens. The website, Does The Dog Die, has grown in popularity since it’s start in 2014. It asks its visitors the following:
Do you turn off Old Yeller before the end so you can pretend that he lived a long and happy life? Did a cute pet on a movie poster make you think it would be a fun comedy but it turned out to be a pet-with-a-terminal-illness tearjerker instead? Are you unable to enjoy the human body count in a horror movie because you’re wondering whether the dog’s going to kick the bucket? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then welcome.
With thousands of entertainments referenced, the website answers not only what it deems “the most important movie question”, but also addresses several other “triggers”. These triggers include alcohol, domestic violence, possession, nuclear explosions, and spoilers on Santa Claus.
Granted, there are times in our lives when we should not make ourselves available for unnecessary trauma, but, at the same time, the short lives of dogs help make us human.
Dogs Are Our Teachers
If we have dogs in our lives, we know the incredible joy of the dog-human bonding. There is even an academic foundation, HABRI, studying the powerful relationship between humans and animals. As America’s beloved poet, Mary Oliver, says in her quirky and wise collection, Dog Songs:
Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?
At the same time, Oliver, the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, acknowledges the sorrow of the ethos of the dog:
Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old — or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give.
While I certainly can understand the popularity of the website, Does the Dog Die?, I also sense that this website is very much a product of Millennial Culture. Indeed, the phenomenon of helicoptering which entails over-protective parents being too involved in their children’s lives has also got to have something to do with the shielding of sorrow. On the other hand, according to Bloomberg and the recent studies on divorce, for the first time in years, the divorce rate is down, largely due to Millennials staying married, a rebellion against their own parents divorce.
The Tender Lesson Of The Dog
Oliver is so right. Dogs die too soon. In my own long life, I have had to deal with the deaths of five beloved dogs.
And yet, these dogs all left a crack in my heart. They made me richer for knowing them. In our new book, the dog, a little seven year old girl asks her veterinarian dad about the death of their dog, Shadow.
“Why, Daddy?” she asked. She still had that strange look on her face. “Why do dogs die so young? Shadow was only seventeen. He was not even as old as my babysitter.”
“To teach us,” he said.
“Teach us what, Daddy?”
“Compassion,” he replied.
“But why, Daddy?” she asked.
“So that we might be kinder. So we might make the world kinder. They leave, but they leave us with their lesson. All great teachers do that.”
For all of us, life yields plenty of complications as we care for our dogs. We don’t always need either Netflix or the local multiplex to remind us of potential tragedies. That’s why there is the trigger website, Doesthedogdie.com.
Yet, being part of the experience of loss, by reading, viewing, and experiencing it, can make us find a deeper, more mindful life.