I did not have any pets at home growing up. I rescued a pup in Iraq during one of our missions clearing a house of explosives, but was later told to surrender him to Civil Affairs as pets and infantry did not mix well. When I left the Army, I had the urge to get a puppy and we rescued one. He was an amazing friend and kept me busy for more than 10 years. We first attempted to train him as a search and rescue dog, but his laziness quickly quashed that dream. Instead, he became a therapy dog and led my wife and me to many hospitals and nursing homes. He even came to my law school finals to help ease the anxiety for me and many of my peers. Through the years, he taught me the value of patience and unconditional love. He was there when our son was born but he passed away a few months ago.
It is often said that humanity’s true moral test is how we treat those at our mercy: our pets and animals (Milan Kundera, and I think Gandhi said similar things). But what I have learned from our dog Moe was much more: about the ideas of freedom and civility.
In training our dog Moe to become a therapy dog, I learned to let go of control of his roam; he would be off-leash but his freedom came with a discovery of his curiosity and intelligence. By giving him the range to explore, he learned rules and boundaries. He learned to maneuver around wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, first out of fear but later out of his desire to comfort those bionic-human beings needing his attention. He learned to participate and respect because he was not bound to arbitrary chains; and his presence was a warmth that everyone felt. When he passed away, we received condolences from all over; but the most tearful thing came from my son who said “daddy, I grow up learn magic and bring Moe back.” To which my wife kindly reminded us that "Necromancing is nothing to f*** with ..." ;-D
As I reflect on Moe's life lived, and the increasing presences of authoritarianism around us (from China to Turkey), I am reminded why freedom is so important as Moe had taught me: when we let go and enable freedom, amazing things will transpire from those who are bestowed the privilege; it is when we chain them that they become uncontrolled and uncivilized.
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware.
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air
Comes a still voice"
We love you Moe.