Friday, December 3, 2010

The Question of Moral Guidance

A few years ago I remember listening to an NPR lecture that included clergy from different religious entities. The question at hand was the morality of lying. The circumstance being discussed was whether or not President Clinton could morally justify lying about Monica Lewinsky. The consensus at the time seemed to suggest that he was right to lie and that lying is not by itself a demonstration of moral turpitude. They pointed out that a husband would be correct to lie about an infidelity if the lie was intended to save the marriage and the future security of parenting of children. And then certainly, to save the country from the embarrassment of his affair, both the country and the lofty demeanor of the Presidency, not to mention the personal nature of the incident and its impact on his own family. As you know, it was not to be, and the whole ugly affair became the matter of a semen stain for all to see.

I have of course rambled uselessly - but I find myself with a moral dilemma. Kodak Tri X-Pan Deal, aka: Kodak is my black Labrador retriever. She is nearly fifteen years old. A vet tech here at my recent Halloween party suggested that she was indeed circling the drain - so to speak. I have watched her slow but methodical approach toward the end of her life. It was first her hearing that seemed to diminish - and then here mobility and eyesight. Certainly she has put on weight. And then her difficulty at getting up stairs or into the car - choosing the wait for assistance rather than endeavor it herself. And now - three months before her fifteenth birthday, she has had a few seizures, has a few tumors on board, and bitches about going up and down the stairs. This morning she slid down the stairs on her chest - innovative yes - but slightly pathetic. She still looks at you with those same puppy dog eyes, recognizes you, and gets excited where there is Pizza in the house. But she also gets confused, seemingly forgetting that you are sitting right next to her and she barking incessantly as if she has been left alone in a room or on the porch by herself. If you reach your foot out and touch her, she is startled, turns, and then looks - with this dorky smirk as if she oops..realized that she was being stupid. But recently, she has started peeing in the house, on the floor, on carpets and more.

I remember visiting my grandmother when I was a kid - she surviving a stroke in a nursing home - pickled with Phenobarbital. I asked the nurse if she was still able to dream, for certainly that would have been the limit of her existence. I recognize the similar state arriving for Kodak - and certainly would wish for her to die quietly in her sleep during the night. I fear that this will not be the case and that I will be forced to examine an entire host of facts in determining if her quality of life is such that she should be put down - a decision I do not relish.

And so today, I have arrived on the cusp of the fast approaching moment when I must make such an examination. It is a circumstance that I have not yet personally explored as an adult. She has been a faithful and loyal companion. Will I be betraying her when she sinks into darkness with euthanasia - or will it free her to sleep forever. I just don't know.

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