What I can do is to take steps to make sure I don’t end up in a hospital, as I approach the age when he began to have trouble. Last year, in mid-December, my heart wouldn’t beat right for about 12 hours. I didn’t go to the hospital because, first of all, I didn’t want them to make things worse, and also I seemed to be fine other than the erratic heartbeat. Since that time, I haven’t had any other issues with my heart, that I’m aware of. I have lost 25 pounds. I’ve started running again, and I am in better shape, and I plan to continue getting stronger. I’m sure there are procedural solutions to medical errors. As Neil deGrasse Tyson recently pointed out, in a typical 48 hours, 500 people die of medical errors, compared to 40 who die by handgun violence. One thing we can all do to cut down on medical errors is to stay in better health and stay out of hospitals. If we decrease the demand for healthcare services, theoretically, providers would do a better job in order to compete for your business. At the very least, and individual can reduce the chances of becoming a victim of a medical error by staying in the best possible health and staying out of hospitals if possible. Which is not to say that everyone who ends up in a hospital did something wrong. My cousin was a fitness instructor, in perfect condition, who died of cancer in her mid-fifties through no fault of her own. If I ever ended up in a hospital, I would suspect it was due to my addiction to jalapeño potato chips. There are certainly steps I can take to reduce the chances I will be the victim of a medical error.
I have a stronger motive to stay out of hospitals than just my hatred of being there or the real possibility of serious medical errors. I have five dogs that depend on me. If I ended up in a hospital, or disabled, or dead, who would take care of my dogs? Who even could take care of my dogs? They are all crazy, and they would not be easy for someone to take. If they were split up, which would be a crime, someone could probably take care of Fozzie without too much trouble. Mu is a great dog, but in certain situations he could get into trouble. Tino, is also a great dog, of course, but he would probably kill someone who wasn’t up to the task of managing him. Sky and Viktor have persistent behavioral problems stemming from their time living on the streets, and they require a lot of patience and understanding, and special care. No one would want to let their dogs down by dying and forcing them to find new homes, but in my case it would really be a disaster.
My heart doesn't belong to me. It belongs to them. I need to take care of my heart in order to be the best human I can be for my dogs. I also need to have a strong heart in order to handle the hard times ahead, some day. When Kelsy died, I was really surprised at how much it affected me. I had been through the loss of great dogs before, and I was expecting to experience the usual amount of grief. Losing Kelsy was much harder than anything I had experienced before. Months after Kelsy died, I read about something called broken heart syndrome. It is a real thing, not just in the imagination of people. The heart is actually weakened and damaged by a traumatic loss, to the point where it can be physically measured. I don’t doubt that the loss of Kelsy was harmful to my overall health. Knowing how hard it was to lose her, I have to expect that I’m going to have to live through similar waves of grief with each of my current five dogs. I’m going to need the healthiest heart possible if I can expect to live through those losses.
If I lost all five of my dogs, I probably wouldn’t be too opposed to dying at that point. It might be a relief to join them in the earth. By the way, if you are reading this, and you survive me, please note that I wish to become compost after my death. It’s a new service available in Washington state. I’m actually looking forward to becoming compost, in a way, and giving something back to the earth. But if all five of my current dogs died, for one reason or another, I would still want to live, for them. For Kelsy in particular, I have at least four books in my head that I want to write about her. I want Kelsy and the other dogs to live for ever, in books. I’m going to have to stick around for quite a while to get all of that done, plus the books I’m working on for Fozzie and Mu. No doubt, I will want to write a book or ten about Tino some day.
My heart doesn’t just belong to my five dogs. It also belongs to all the dogs and cats that I can help with my knowledge, experience, and services. If I can help a lost dog or cat, if I can save a life, in some ways it would be a crime if I didn’t. If I’m not helping a lost cat or dog, I feel like I’m letting them down. On the other hand, I do need to take some time away from it. Every day, I deal with people in crisis because they have lost a family member. It can have a toll on me. To protect my heart, to be better able to serve lost cats and dogs in the future, I need to step away some times and let others shoulder the burden. I need to go for a run in the woods, along a winding trail, in order to stay healthy for my dogs and for everyone’s dogs.
Talking to people usually drains the energy from me. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy talking to people sometimes. It’s just an effort for me. For some people, talking to other people gives them energy. For me, talking to people wears me down. On average, I talk to 10 or 20 people a day, depending on the work load. I want to help people, and I want to talk to friends, but it’s not always easy for me. If I don’t respond to someone as quick as a good friend ought to, I hope people will understand that all that talking is an effort for me, sometimes. I need time with my goofy dogs, time away, time in the mountains, in the wilderness, to regenerate and to do my work the best I can.
I’m prepared to say that my heart, my knowledge, and my abilities don’t belong to me. They belong to my dogs, my family, and my community. When I take time for myself, to workout, to relax, to read, I’m not being selfish, I hope. When someone calls me about their lost dog or cat, I want to give them the best chance at finding their lost family member, working hard and working smart with the search dog, and giving clear advice based on experience and collected data. I’m not always going to respond to everyone as soon as they would like, and I will work on being better about that. I hope people know, even when I don’t respond right away, I am either currently working on helping a lost pet, or I’m working on maintaining or improving my knowledge and abilities, so that I can do a better job.