I am a veterinarian, and one of my clients is an elderly woman who loves her 8-year-old Pomeranian dearly but has no family or friends who might inherit it. She wants me to sign a legal document stating that I will euthanize it if she dies before the dog does. What should I do? NAME WITHHELD, BOSTONDa leggere tutto (The New York Times, january 6, 2012).
Many readers — like the horrified pet owners to whom I mentioned your letter — will find your client’s request simply unthinkable.
Though I’m not entirely sure why.
Dogs have no special expectation of longevity. Death doesn’t rob them of the retirement they had been looking forward to or the long-awaited chance to dance at their daughter’s wedding. So though it would be barbaric to cause the Pomeranian needless pain, ending its life gently seems no worse than things that most people do every day — like eating a hamburger. And I say that as both a dog lover and a hamburger eater.
Our culture draws a distinction between house pets and farm animals. We raise the former to be cosseted and kissed; we raise the latter to be killed and eaten. But that distinction is largely one of convenience. Our convenience, that is. It’s not based on any zoological facts, and the animals sure didn’t consent to it.
So if, like everyone who eats meat or wears leather, you believe that it’s sometimes O.K. to kill animals for our own needs, then why not in this case, when dying would at least be painless but losing its owner would not be?