To Die Like A Dog

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Mercy is the perfection of love, the most dear of my attributes.
– Jesus

I was raised Catholic, but I have never believed in the divinity of Jesus, making my name (meaning bearer of Christ) ironic at best, hypocrisy at worst. But that doesn’t bother me, since hypocrisy is a vital element of organized religions, governments, and bureaucracies. They adopt hypocrisy by choice, not by chance.

The elements of religion and government that I can tolerate are those which overlap and are vital to civilized society (read: the ten commandments). Both institutions are a means of controlling the masses, and the masses do need to be controlled. Sheep and sheeple alike need to be told what to do by Border Collies (institutions) who are themselves controlled by the shepherd (authority figures). Just like the shepherd-sheep relationship, authority and institutions are not benevolent, they are all too often exploitive, making the sheep breed and grow so that they can be consumed for the benefit of the authority.

Growing religions (and they all want to grow) often tap into this need–to increase their user base and thus gain power, wealth, and leverage over other groups–by establishing rules to increase fecundity of their existing base: proselytize to the weak, poor, and vulnerable; prohibit birth control; and advocate large families.

Catholic doctrine against birth control isn’t to not waste sperm, it’s to keep Catholic women pregnant with future Catholics. Jewish kibutzim are as much about growing more Jews as growing crops. Mormon polygamy serves to rapidly increase the population by doing away with un-needed extra males, just like one rooster can service a whole house full of hens or one bull can service an entire herd of cows. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar have been brainwashed by their flavor of god into being human baby machines and poor Michelle has spent most of her life pregnant pumping out a human-herd of true believers for the cause.

I get all that. What I don’t get is why religions are so interested in keeping you around after you’ve bred and your usefulness has waned. Sure, raising humans is harder than raising most any other animal (we’re useless for more than a decade, sometimes two) and grandparents; aunts and uncles; and older siblings play a larger roll in raising human young than they do in most of the animal kingdom. But moral arguments against suicide baffle me. The abundant fear and hatred of human euthanasia blows my mind.

The fundamental right, in my view, is the right to self determination. If you don’t own yourself, all other rights are meaningless and subject to the authority that does own you. The ultimate expression of that right is the daily affirmation that you choose to live for another day. And the final, graceful, and crucial application of the most basic right is the ability to not choose to live for another day.

Every human should have the right to autonomy, to make decisions about their own life, especially when those decisions are personal, private, and existential.

Humans should live with compassion and decency, especially compassion and decency to one’s self. It is compassionate to die with ease and grace, avoiding the humiliation, agony, and uncertainty of a prolonged death, for both the dying and the living. Dignity is a virtue.

Humans should not do unjustified and unnecessary harm to themselves or others. To extend life at all costs is to also extend dying at all costs, and there is clearly a point at which extended sustenance is malevolence.

Justice is “the moral obligation to act on the basis of fair adjudication between competing claims.” There is certainly no party of consequence that has a more compelling and competing claim on one’s life than one’s self. As such, it’s unfair, inequitable, and unjust for any law or moral to supersede rational self interest and enforce an inhumane death process.

Utility is also morality. It is moral to provide the greatest good to the greatest many. It is moral and utilitarian to allow the dying to end their suffering or avoid it altogether; it is moral and utilitarian to allow the living to grieve efficiently and avoid unnecessary and extended pain, uncertainty, and helplessness; it is moral and utilitarian to allow medical professionals to treat dying with the fastest, easiest, cheapest, and most humane procedure at their disposal.

It’s also utilitarian to maximize the good and minimize the bad. Such calculations for other goods involve multiplying quality and quantity to arrive at gross goodness. If you’re selling a product you multiply the quality (price) by the quantity sold and you produce at a level that maximizes that value (profit). The optimum production level is always when the cost of producing that last unit is equal to what someone will pay you for it (price = marginal revenue = marginal cost).

In humane terms, when the cost of living is more than the benefit you gain from life, you’re better of shutting down unless you expect future profits and have enough reserves to run deficits. When you’re old and tired and sick, you don’t have appreciable reserves and you might not want to wait it out for an unlikely upturn. This is simply an economist’s way of saying that Quality of Life is more important than quantity of life.

We, as a society, have no problem making these calculations for our dogs. Is it because we don’t think they have souls and our human ethics don’t apply to them, or is it because we are more brave, honest, and humane with our animals than we are with ourselves?

I think we all know that the “rainbow bridge” is bucket of crap just like the pearly gates of heaven or the iron gates of hell. We entertain these fantasies because they are easier to swallow than the alternative of endless and meaningless Nothing.

So how fitting it is that a recent article titled “The Sweet Death of Karol Wojtyla” theorizes that the greatest face of religion on the planet, the premier pontiff, the holy see, the champion of Catholicism chose to die like a dog:

In a provocative article, an Italian medical professor argues that Pope John Paul II didn’t just simply slip away as his weakness and illness overtook him in April 2005. Intensive care specialist Dr. Lina Pavanelli has concluded that the ailing Pope’s April 2 death was caused by what the Catholic Church itself would consider euthanasia. She bases this conclusion on her medical expertise and her own observations of the ailing pontiff on television, as well as press reports and a subsequent book by John Paul’s personal physician. The failure to insert a feeding tube into the patient until just a few days before he died accelerated John Paul’s death, Pavanelli concludes. Moreover, Pavanelli says she believes that the Pope’s doctors dutifully explained the situation to him, and thus she surmises that it was the pontiff himself who likely refused the feeding tube after he’d been twice rushed to the hospital in February and March. Catholics are enjoined to pursue all means to prolong life.

When my time comes, I hope to die like a dog too, put out of my misery swiftly and humanely. I see no morality and only cowardice in dying otherwise. Apparently, when push came to shove, so did Pope John Paul II despite his words to the contrary.

Artificially administered food and water are a natural means of preserving life, not a medical procedure. Therefore, their use must be considered ordinary and appropriate and as such, morally obligatory.

Even when the vegetative state lasts longer than a year, one cannot ethically justify abandoning or interrupting basic care, including food and hydration, of the patient.

Hastening death by starvation or dehydration, consciously or deliberately, is truly euthanasia by omission.

We are governed by the moral principal according to which even the slightest doubt of being in the presence of a person who is alive requires full respect and prohibits any action that would anticipate his or her death. The value of the life of a man cannot be subjected to the judgement of quality expressed by other men; it is necessary to promote positive activities to counteract pressure for the suspension of food and hydration, as a means to putting an end to the life of these patients.

– Pope John Paul II, 3/20/2004

It’s pointless for me to badger the hypocrisy in such words if the theory is true, since in my view, hypocrisy is clearly better than stupidity and conformity in this case. The crime of hypocrisy only has teeth when people preach justice and practice injustice. When they preach injustice and practice justice, they are still hypocrites, but it is a crime of words, not deeds.

I’d rather hear your lies than be shackled by your misplaced morality. I’d rather you tell me all about heaven and hell and the rainbow bridge if you give your dogs a just end and allow me to give myself the same.

Right now there are plenty of Catholics who are wearing condoms, and all the better. Birth rates in Catholic countries are lower per capita than the rest of the world. Catholics are a more pragmatic bunch than the church would have you believe. Right now there are plenty of Catholics who are having a vet put their pooch down with dignity. Right now there are likely Catholics who are choosing to die like dogs.

I applaud them for rejecting the threat of eternal damnation and avoiding the real threat of a long, meaningless, and painful death.

  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for theirs is the kingdom of autonomous men
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they assuage suffering
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they abound in beneficence
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they eschew maleficence
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they magnify utility
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they shall see Peace
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they shall obtain and provide mercy
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they are not persecuted for the righteousness of others
  • Blessed are those who die like dogs, for they reject all manner of evil done to them for the sake of another’s god

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is the reward for those who die like a dog.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.