The following article was written by Karen Porreca, PETA’s senior library director and chief copy editor.
“Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future”―these words of wisdom came from Horace, a Roman poet who lived from 65 to 8 B.C.E. Nowhere in our lives is this advice more apt than in our relationships. And because all dogs’ lives are tragically short, this advice applies all the more to them.
I recently began corresponding with Kate Hughes, a lovely woman who appreciates dogs as much as I do. She had an idyllic family life with her husband, Virgil, their cat, Daisy, and two big dogs, Wrigley and Coco. Both dogs had come through hard times before ending up with Kate and Virgil. Wrigley had been shot with a BB gun, lived through Katrina, and finally been dumped by the side of a road. Coco’s past is not as well known, but for a while, she had the telltale skittishness of a dog who had not always been treated well. The two dogs were inseparable. According to Kate, “Wrigley was a playful and protective big brother. He and Coco would sleep snuggled up together in our bed every night, and he often licked her face gently while she fell asleep. He was also buddies with our cat, Daisy (adopted last summer), who liked to swat his tail and cuddle up with him in his chair.”
The late Wrigley Hughes enjoys an autumn adventure in the woods.
We write of Wrigley in the past tense because not long ago, tragedy struck. An overnight guest at Kate and Virgil’s home left a bottle of the medication Adderall within reach of the dogs, and Wrigley chewed up the bottle and consumed most of the pills. At 5:30 a.m. on August 17, Kate awoke to find Wrigley foaming at the mouth and frantically thrashing around. She rushed him to the emergency vet, where he spent the next 48 hours struggling to survive what was essentially an overdose of a drug similar to speed. The vets did everything within their power to save him, but Wrigley had suffered too much organ damage and finally had to be euthanized. Kate wrote, “It was so crushingly painful and heartbreaking to say goodbye to our healthy and happy-go-lucky pup. It haunts me to know that this terrible tragedy could have been avoided. I still think of that night over and over and can’t believe that this happened in our own home when we’ve always been so neurotic and careful. Not a minute goes by that we don’t think of Wrigley and not a day goes by that I don’t cry for him. He had overcome so much in his short life and gave us (and many others) infinitely more unconditional love than we could ever fathom.”
Wrigley was only 6 years old when he died. Just last weekend, I heard that the 6-year-old dog of an acquaintance of mine has developed terminal cancer in his jaw. The week before that, a friend told me that his little dog had been killed by a neighborhood pit bull. I myself had a dog who died of liver disease long before his time. Losing a dog who has not yet reached old age is not an uncommon experience, even though it seems like a terribly unfair one. No matter how careful we are, any dog can fall victim to an accident, be harmed by another dog or person, or become terminally ill at a young age.
So let’s remind ourselves to cherish our dogs each and every day and not put off for later any of the fun things that they might enjoy. Hiking in the woods, swimming at the beach, agility classes, play dates, dog parties, belly rubs―whatever your dogs like, let them do it now. Don’t put it off, because there are no guarantees that they will still be here tomorrow.
Wrigley poses with family members Virgil, Kate, and Coco during one of their many hiking trips.
Thankfully, despite his premature passing, Wrigley was luckier than 99 percent of the dogs on the planet because Kate and Virgil have always understood how to seize the day. In the four short years that Wrigley lived with them, he joined the family on hiking and camping adventures and traveled to Michigan, Maryland, Vermont’s Green Mountains, the Berkshires, Cape Cod, the Hamptons, Bear Mountain in Connecticut, Niagara Falls, and the Appalachian Trail. He also had many opportunities to do the things he loved—like going to the dog park, romping through the snow, and swimming in the ocean, lakes, and rivers. Wrigley’s story is a cautionary tale, yes, but it also illustrates the importance of making sure that our dogs get to enjoy life to the fullest, whatever its length.