Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Rescue Cripples

That old dog in my neighborhood is still out and about. Every time I see him out on his walk he’s moving slower and slower. His walker walks about three strides ahead, looking back, the leash stretched fully taught behind him as the old dog tries diligently tries to keep up at a pace that vaguely resembles an amble.

Whenever I see that dog here’s what I say to myself: There's that poor old dog again. I’m amazed he’s still going! Look how he struggles. I wonder why somebody doesn’t put him to sleep.

And then I wonder if maybe some of my neighbors think the same thing about me when they see me out and about. Because sometimes I imagine I’m a pathetic sight to them indeed, struggling to drive my wheelchair over rough and uneven pavement. I especially struggle in winter when being bundled up makes feel like I’m bound in a straitjacket. My pace is slow and choppy. My companion walks about three strides ahead, looking back. And I wonder if this is what some of my neighbors think when they see me: There's that poor old cripple again. I’m amazed he’s still going! Look how he struggles. I wonder why somebody doesn’t put him to sleep.

And when I see that old dog it sparks this ethical debate in my head. It challenges my liberal sensibilities. I think about all kinds of deep stuff like quality of life and personal autonomy and the extent of society’s responsibility to take care of a lame old dog. I say to myself, But then again, who am I to say that somebody ought to put that old dog to sleep? I mean, he looks like he’s still enjoying himself. His tail is up. So I guess it’s not cruel to keep him alive.

Do my neighbors have the same ethical debate when they see me? He looks like he’s still enjoying himself. His head is up. So I guess it’s not cruel to keep him alive.

And from there on it’s the same debate I have in my head about the dog, except my neighbors substitute cripple for dog: Well isn’t it nice that that old cripple has someone who’s willing to take care of him and take him out like that. If that old cripple was loose alone on the streets, as lame as he is, then calling the authorities to come get him and put him to sleep would be the ethical thing to do. But as long as someone is willing to make the financial and emotional sacrifice it takes to keep an old cripple like that going, I proudly say more power to them, as long as it doesn’t cost me anything. It’s good that there are people in this world who take in rescue cripples.

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1 comment:

  1. I wrestled with these very issues when one of my dogs became elderly and developed severe mobility limitations. I felt like other people thought I should have him put to sleep, but I didn't want to judge him in the way that some people might judge me. He could barely walk, but I can't walk at all. He had accidents; well I do sometimes, too. In the end I made the decision based on his perception of his quality-of-life, as best I could determine. When he was happy, and seemed to want to be in the world, I gave him the best life possible, regardless of whether his disabilities were an inconvenience to me. But when he got to the point where he was in pain despite medication, when he didn't want to get up at all and looked sad all the time, I helped him move on. It was a difficult choice but I don't regret it.

    We humans with disabilities can communicate with others about the meaningfulness of our lives. With the support of mental health professionals, we can address depression that may cause us to perceive our lives in a negative way. Our choices should be heard and our lives should be valued as much as we value them.