How can I set the date for my friend’s death? How do I say goodbye? These are the questions that haunted me the day I was told that my faithful friend, Cosmo, had bone cancer. At first I was numb, but emotion quickly flooded me and I was overcome with sadness. I was going to have to make the decision to spare him the pain and suffering that bone cancer would bring, but the act of having to set the date of his final day unnerved me. Just as his life had been in my hands through the years, now also would be his death.
Cosmo came to me in 1999. I had recently become fascinated with Greyhounds, and after some brief study through the internet I soon fell in love with these beautiful, gentle animals. I contacted an organization called Greyhound Companions and they eventually brought three dogs to my home. I knew almost immediately that Cosmo was the one I wanted. He quickly laid his head in my lap, looking up as if to say, “You do want me, don’t you?” That day a former racing Greyhound named Caspar became my Cosmo.
We spent seven great years together, but on October 31, 2006, I came to the realization that our time together was coming to an end. As I thought back on my decision to adopt Cosmo, I remember thinking about what a great change living in my home would be for him. His life had been the track and having no one to love him, followed by foster homes where he was loved but was not a permanent part of the family. I was so happy to be giving him a chance at a better life; I was proud that I could help to provide him with the life that he deserved. However, the most amazing realization occurred to me in those last days with Cosmo: It wasn’t just his life that had been made better, but mine as well.
Through both his life and his death, my friend Cosmo taught me the meaning of dignity. Through his life I learned to be a kinder, gentler person. I learned to forgive mistakes and to give others my time, praise, love, and attention, if for no other reason than that it brings joy into their life. Through his disease and death, I learned what it means to not only live with grace and dignity, but to die with it as well. I have come to believe that animals have much to teach us if we will only listen. While it is a belief that has always been within me, my time with Cosmo crystallized it and made it real.
Adopting Cosmo and having him in my life was a truly rewarding experience, and I have come to realize that the relationship between human beings and animals is a life-changing one. I mean, look at me. I started out wanting a dog.
What I found was a friend.
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