Monday, January 30, 2012
Of Suicide and Man's Best Friend
This story resonated with me.
A struggling New York soap opera actor was found dead in his apartment days after putting down his dog.
Nick Santino was discovered by police in his Upper West Side bedroom on his 47th birthday. Neighbours said he was devastated that he had to put down his pit bull after his building enforced harsh new laws against the breed.
He euthanized his dog Rocco on Tuesday. In a suicide note, he wrote: ‘Today I betrayed my best friend. Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.’
I recall a short story in one of James Herriot's books - he being the famed author of All Creatures Great and Small and its sequels - where he fails to see a dog belonging to a local bachelor for some reason, and the dog dies - and the owner subsequently commits suicide.
I can understand a suicide like this. People know that I love my dogs. I have always loved dogs. Little girls tend to fall in love with one of three animals, it seems: dogs, cats, or horses. I had a subscription to Dog Fancy when I was a child and read up on the various breeds.
In these particular cases, the pets were more than simply that. They gave a reason to live for their owners. As someone who suffers bouts of depression, knowing someone else, even a dog, loves you and relies on you to be there can give one the impetus to make it out of bed in the morning and, just for today, stay on Earth one more day. It does not work for everyone, but for some knowing that someone, anyone would be devastated by their death keeps them going.
I do not anthromorphize my dogs. They remain dogs, not children. But at the same time, I recognize that they display honest affection and loyalty to me. I have no doubt that if a danger presented itself to me, they would place themselves between me and the risk. They delight me in their antics, especially watching my two young Weiamraners play (I have four dogs altogether). Even as I write this now, all four are lying on the floor around me, with my Standard Schnauzer, Dante, always the closest (he is a rescue dog and remains strongly bonded with me).
I remember a time when I was single and contemplated suicide, with all the stress and loneliness in my life beating me down. At the time, what kept me from killing myself was the fact that my parents were still alive - I just could not put them through that. Years later, still single and after years of not having one, I bought a dog, my old Corgi, Bridie. I remember I went through a bad break up with a boyfriend and rather than be depressed, took his "sorry-it-didn't-work-out" card and let her tear it to shreds. Childish, perhaps, but she kept me from falling into depression. I have a loving husband now, and two great kids, and four dogs - that's enough to perhaps have a few days of head-under-the-covers depression but not for long.
The sun is out today, and I made it a priority to walk my woodlot with my dogs. It made today a better day than yesterday and gave me hope that tomorrow will be okay, too.
Today's prayer intention is for Nick Santino and Rocco.