We treat our dogs better 

We treat our dogs better

A couple of weeks ago we took Cork in to help him die. Quickly and free of pain. It strengthened my conviction that we should legally be able to do this for humans, too.

For maybe two years my husband, Mike, and I have been watching our oldest dog's slow deterioration, trying to figure out if his life had become more pain than pleasure, more chore than fun. The daily prescription arthritis and pain medicines he's been taking for years definitely eased him and slowed his disease, but he was 16 and the deterioration, of course, had continued. Finally, together, we decided the time had come.

From the top of the linen closet, we found a soft, thick flannel top sheet in a rich peach color that had survived long after the bottom fitted one became rags. That, I decided, would be perfect for laying over Cork's bed on the 45-minute ride into the vet's, then later for lowering him into his grave and covering him before shoveling in the dirt.

Was it hard making all the arrangements and decisions for his death, knowing we were taking him on his last short walk to his favorite places to let him check his pee mail one more time, putting the posthole digger on the tractor to prepare his grave, then giving him the sedative for the ride in? You betcha. But not as hard as putting a bullet through his head or watching his suffering increase with no hope of getting better. Dr. Nixon and his staff could not have been more kind. He came out to the back of the vehicle to give the shots, speaking kindly to Cork as he mercifully ended what had been a long life most dogs could only dream about.

While horribly sad, this was all in direct contrast to an agonizing end-of-life experience I experienced last fall. In order for his wife to go home and get some desperately needed rest, I spent the night in a hospital hospice room with a dear friend of 35 years. It was not a good night. Although unconscious and hooked up to a morphine pump that I could click throughout the night to administer more medicine, my friend choked, gasped, moaned and screamed for hours.

Nothing I did seemed to help him. Talking, touching, singing, praying, reciting scripture, more touch, chanting, and more singing — nothing seemed to help. I called the nurses for help so often during that long night they would not look at me when my relief sitter came the next morning.

Sitting with him that night challenged my illusion that all pain could be dealt with through the right medication. Maybe it can be somewhere somehow, but it certainly wasn't in that hospital room a few months ago. My friend's wife is assertive, and during his long illness they consulted with numerous doctors on pain management. His hospice doc was a good one, but they only got his pain managed the final three or so days of his life.

I made Mike swear that he would never, ever let that happen to me. He feels the same way about the matter, and we made a pact that if either of us is ever terminally ill and the pain cannot be controlled, we will not leave the other to suffer like that. No matter what. If worse comes to worst and we can figure out no other way, we both have guns and we both know how to use them. Regardless of consequences, we have each other's back on this one.

We hope it won't come to that. We're in our late 60s now. We hope that by the time we reach our journey's end that Arkansas law will have changed to allow Arkansas hospice patients with unmanageable pain to receive the help they want from a willing physician so they can exit this life with dignity.

If you feel the same way, what can you do to make this possible? Let your legislators know, of course, but what else? Is there someone you know who might help, or some organization you might contact? What can you do, this week, to start the changes that will make it possible to treat humans with as much compassion as we show our pets?

Lee Cowan


Minimum wage misinformation

On Jan. 31, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a letter from letter-writer Dennis Bosch about the proposed ballot initiative to raise Arkansas's minimum wage. That letter contained a number of inaccuracies.

He refers to an "increase to $15 an hour." The proposal that supporters hope to have on the ballot for Arkansas voters this November would raise the minimum wage in three steps from its current level of $6.25 per hour to $7.50 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015; $8 on Jan. 1, 2016, and $8.50 on Jan. 1, 2017.

Over the 10-plus years since the minimum wage was last increased in 2006, the final increase would be about 3 percent a year.

The writer also claims that in the fast-food industry, "about half the cost of that hamburger consists of the wages paid to employees." The latest financial statements from McDonald's Corp. for their company-owned stores indicate that the cost of "payroll and employee benefits" is about 25 percent of sales. This includes not just minimum wage workers' wages, but also management salaries as well as fringe benefits such as payroll taxes.

Between now and November, a lot of misinformation and disinformation will be spread about this reasonable proposal. Hopefully, Arkansas voters will not be misled.

Mike Watts

Little Rock

Segregation everywhere

Your article about integration in public swimming pools in Little Rock (Feb. 6) brought back childhood memories. I was raised in the southern suburbs of Chicago, and in the late '40s and early '50s, my mother would drive me and my brother to a neighboring town, eight miles away, to swim. One day I asked one of my parents why we didn't have a pool in our town, and I was told that "if we had one, we'd have to have two." The meaning was clear, even to me as a child. So segregation in pools didn't occur only in the South!

Jan Bowen


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