I’m not sure how but my dog Frenchy seems to have come to the realization that all living things, such as himself, will someday die.
Most likely it was his last visit to the vet when the doctor wheeled by a dog that had been run over. He looked uncannily like Frenchy except for the skid marks on his chest and his dead eyes. But while the other canines about yelped, whimpered, or ran around in circles, Frenchy stared intently as his doppelganger’s lifeless body passed by.
It caught my attention that he was laser-focused on the departed, his pupils wide open and his mouth agape. Shortly after, Frenchy’s eyes rolled to the back of his head as he passed out on the linoleum floor.
Since that time Frenchy, once a carefree creature, has been noticeably depressed. He spends his time staring at sunsets, smelling the roses rather than peeing on them, and licking himself like he knows such pleasures won’t always be there.
He no longer chases after Rudolph, his feline nemesis, as the two seemingly have formed a bond. One night I caught them whispering behind the sofa. When they saw me approach they padded away from each other as if it had never happened.
Then the cat began to act strange. Her purrs turned to plaintive wails and she refused to box the string or chase the flashlight’s beam. She’s almost groomed all her fur off, swats at thin air, and rubs up against sharp objects.
Even more unsettling, I spotted her chatting up the birds and squirrels as they perched on the fence.
Many of the feathered creatures, once daily visitors at the feeder, have taken off in every direction. Those that remain no longer tweet their morning greeting but linger wearily on the wires or fly in sad circles while defecating all over the landscape.
I read on Next Door, the local town crier, that many of my neighbors have noticed some of their pets have taken to barking back or ignoring their commands. One lamented in horror that her poodle Muffin uncharacteristically ran out the front door and laid down in the street while cars swerved to dodge her. Said the now pet-less owner, “It’s like she was asking to be hit.”
Another wrote that her cat Vanderpump had recently shown signs of distress and was “clawing her wrists and jumping in the pool.” One other mentioned that her pet parrot Arnold repeated a phrase that sounded like, “It’s all pointless, It’s all so pointless.”
The plants in my house have fainted.
Not long after, the news broadcast that animals at the zoo were refusing to come out. Many of the primates are showing little interest in their usual pastime of mocking visitors. Over at the aquarium, the word is that many of its nautical inhabitants are coming up for air and not submerging until they pass out.
Twitter, Facebook, Messenger, Reddit, and even my Amazon Wish List are increasingly showing videos of animals around the world languishing in the wilderness. There was a clip of a lion chasing a wallaby and they were both walking. There were reports of wild game ambushing hunters.
A network showed a queen bee holding court in a hive while none of her subjects bothered to attend. Chickens were flying the coop and cattle were refusing to enter the chute.
I’ve come to believe that ground zero for spreading the news of all of our inevitable passing was right here with Frenchy. He’s a simple fellow who’s become burdened with the knowledge that life has an end date. He may even know there is a reason they pull ‘dog tags’ off dead soldiers, that each one of his years counts as seven and someday his bowl will have another’s name on it.
So now our evenings often end with Frenchy nudging me while motioning towards the television. To calm him I’ll go ahead and put on his favorite movie as we nuzzle on the couch. And then we’ll watch, “All Dogs Go To Heaven” until we doze off.