Thursday, August 04, 2005

"Old dogs, like old shoes, are comfortable. They might be a bit out of shape and a little worn around the edges, but they fit well."


That's my dog.

He was a present from my mom and dad for my third birthday. He was an all-white German Shepherd and Siberian Huskey mix. We got him from a breeder... he was the only all-white one. I named him Snowball.

We had Snowball for 15 years. My parents didn't like him - he was crazy. He chewed and ruined things all over the house well past his acceptable puppyhood years. When I was around seven years old, my parents had had enough. Snowball had mutilated something (exactly what it was escapes me now) and my dad decided it was time to get rid of him. He knew a guy who had a huge farm; "He'll be happy there," my dad told me. I was crying, of course... I loved Snowball more than anything. Sure he was a little stupid and pretty badly behaved... but he was mine and I loved him.

My dad brought Snowball to the farm... he stayed there overnight. My dad brought him back home the next day. My dad loves me a real lot.

And so Snowball stayed for nearly eleven more years. He aged noticeably, like any other dog does, but it wasn't until my senior year of high school that it started to catch up with him. He just started falling apart, it seemed like. Something was wrong with his tail; the vet had to amputate it, leaving a tiny stub (which was actually pretty cute, if you ask me) in place of the long and bushy one.

In November, he wouldn't lay down. He would try... but his legs couldn't do it. He stood or sat. We had to carry him up and down the stairs to bring him outside, and move his food and water bowls upstairs. The next day, he couldn't control the right side of his body; he'd had a stroke. He panted all the time and wouldn't respond to his name... his left ear only twitched a little.

On November 15, I took my best friend to the vet to be put to sleep. It was the day after my 18th birthday. My parents agreed it was for the best, and when it was time to go, it was clear that despite all his faults and all the messes he made over the years, everyone loved him. My dad drove his old Escort and I sat in the back, holding Snowball's head in my lap. In the examination room, I held his head and stroked his paw until he stopped breathing.

That was it. I skipped school the next day, laid in bed all day, and cried. I still have his collar - red with a green bone shaped tag - in a shoebox under my bed. For a while, it still smelled like him.

Why all of this now, after he's been gone nearly five years? I read this article on CNN yesterday and couldn't believe it. Cloning dogs! At first I was excited. It'd be great - no little kids would ever have to lose a dog to a car accident or hit-and-run again. Then I thought about it a little more, and I decided that I hate this idea.

If someone gave me an exact replica of my boy Snowball right now, I wouldn't accept him. I don't care what anyone says... I've taken enough philosophy classes to know that mind, body, and soul are separate entities.

The clone might have a pink nose, blue eyes, and one ear that's clipped at the tip, but he'll always be "the clone" and never "Snowball." The clone wouldn't know about the song I wrote and sang when I was five called "Snowbie my Boy"... it wouldn't know about how I used to practice my clarinet while Snowball howled with every high note... it wouldn't know about how Snowball always managed to eat around his heartworm pill, no matter what kind of food we put it in for him.

This whole thing has changed my opinion of cloning. The last sentence in the article sums it up, I think: "Whenever we breed dogs for looks and ignore behavior, we have suffered." Snowball was a beautiful dog, and I'd really like to look at him again... but that would be the extent of it. He'd only look the same and I couldn't ignore the fact that the sameness ended there.

8 comments:

Luke said...

Sometimes the quirky pets are the most loved.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, saying clones are the same as the original is like saying twins are the same person. However, that Snuppy is a cute dog with a cute name.
mjd

Becky said...

mjd,

Snuppy is just about the cutest name ever, isn't it? And the dogs are beautiful... it's a shame what the article says about them, though, that they're not very friendly or loyal or whatever... they sure are pretty.

thanks for reading :)

Jackie said...

Hi Becky! It's Jackie Whan (now Shuler from SJC). I stumbled across your blog through Justin's and that post totally made me cry! I can completely relate to your experience and completely agree with what you say about cloning! But anyway, thanks for such a heartwarming story! It was a good cry!

Frema said...

As wise old Fred Gwyne in Pet Sematary said, "Sometimes dead is better."

The day before my SJC graduation, my family put to sleep our pet German Shepherd after 13 years with us. He couldn't get up and down our second-floor set of stairs and had all sorts of problems. We have a new dog now, but we still miss Gyver a lot. I'd rather miss him, though, than be faced with his identical twin.

Becky said...

Hi, Jackie!!! Congrats to you and Don! I saw Kelli and Chuck the weekend after, and all Kelli talked about pretty much the whole time was how great and beautiful and fun your wedding was :)

Thanks for reading... and I'm glad you liked what you saw!

Frema - would "Gyver" be short for "MACGyver"?! Cause that'd be pretty awesome if it was. Imagine having a dog named after the hero of everything 1980.

:)

Frema said...

I don't really know. We got him when he was six months old and already named. That is how it's pronounced, though.

Phil said...

Damn you, Becky...you're making me cry. Do we all have these incredibly sad "dog-being-put-to-sleep stories"? I was in college when my parents had to put Maggie to sleep....but I still didn't go to class that day when I got the phone call. Not that going to class happened often to me, but....