Fall 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 4 Personally Speaking |

A Pastoral Occasion

We at last decided to make an end to things, and put Jacob down. You put an old dog down to abbreviate his suffering, or free yourself of his inconvenience. He is thirteen, his birthday falling within a month of Elizabeth's. He can scarcely rise unassisted—each morning he looks like a man trying to pull an overturned wagon. Nothing wrong with his forelegs—he is a massive, deep-chested dog. But the hips, congenitally defective, have grown steadily worse. The atrophied thighs lie awkwardly out to the side as he heaves himself up. Then he pulls ahead, his toenails scrabbling against the floor, until the wasted hindquarters trail out behind him. Now he can slowly curl them beneath him, into something like a sitting posture, from which, panting, tottering, he rises. There is no triumph in it. He looks at us with the hangdog look of apology, supplication, and fear. Age is a terror. He senses the impatience with which we, busy people with things to do, wait on each labored ascens

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