It’s been a rough few weeks for Buddy, a 14-year-old Labrador mix in Michigan. His owner died suddenly, and people who know the dog say he plunged into a deep depression. Then a veterinarian pronounced Buddy terminally ill, with cancer that spread all over his body.
So his adoptive parent, a volunteer at an animal rescue organization, told a local news station that she was cheering up the dying dog by creating a bucket list — a checklist of things one wants to do before dying — for him. According to a Facebook page chronicling Buddy’s end-of-life goals, among the items the dog has completed so far are sleeping every night in his “humom’s” bed, posing for a photo with the Easter bunny, spending a day at the beach, overdosing on peanut butter, chasing a gaggle of geese and eating a McDonald’s kids’ meal.
“We’re not sure how much longer he has left,” his caretaker, Loren Cazan, told WXYZ in Detroit. “But we just want to make sure that, whatever time that is, he has the best life possible.”
More than ever, Americans treat pets like family members. According to a 2015 poll, nearly half of pet owners said they buy birthday presents for their animals. Most sleep in the same bed together. Almost a third of people cook for their pets. Some dogs even have maternity photo shoots. And although there aren’t any statistics on this, it seems that dying dogs are increasingly being treated to bucket lists, many of which include beaches and fast food (and could include going viral).
There was also a Buddy in Australia who had a bucket list and a Facebook page that, like the Michigan Buddy’s, was called Buddy’s Bucket List; he died on Wednesday with all but one item (“help other animals”) checked off. Before the Buddies, there was Reyes, a Pennsylvania dog who checked off more than 80 experiences — including eating fries at McDonald’s — before dying Feb. 3. Before Reyes, there was Chester in Georgia. Before Chester, there was Gizelle from New York. She rode in a canoe, and her owner got a book deal.
Subaru jumped on the dog bucket-list bandwagon last year with an ad featuring a man “who rewards his faithful, old friend with the weekend trip of a lifetime, with a little help from his Subaru Impreza.” And, yes, it included the beach and takeout.
The canine bucket list trend is anthropomorism at its finest — in this case, humans use their own emotions and experiences (and, surely, what they believe to be their dogs’) to interpret what dogs want to do in their final days.
“It’s a great exhibit of two things,” said Alexandra Horowitz, the author of “Inside of a Dog” and the director of the Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College. “One, our really wanting the dog to have a good life and death. And this is a wonderful thing. And then also taking the things that are meaningful for us and putting them on the dog. Period.”
Writing on the website Vetstreet last year, veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang cautioned dog owners to “be careful when planning these sorts of adventures, as your pets really can’t give a whole lot of input into what they feel like doing.” She noted that terminally ill dogs often feel pretty horrible and would probably prefer to avoid long road trips and foods that might make them even more nauseated. Beach visits and cuddles make sense, she wrote.
Do they? Who knows? The dogs with bucket lists haven’t said, but most looked relatively happy. You be the judge.
King’s Bucket ListItem 62: Buy that midlife crisis vehicle Congestive heart failure makes one very tired; sometimes King doesn’t feel like walking. Thanks to Suzanne, he can ride in style! Pretty slick wheels, eh?Stay tuned to see what shenanigans King can get involved in today.Who is King and why is he on a Bucket List adventure? King is a 4 year old pit bull that @Houston Street Dogs pulled from the county shelter so he could know love before he is euthanized. King’s owner couldn’t be bothered to get him a heartworm preventative pill each month, so King is now in end stage heart failure. His liver and and kidneys have shut down. There is nothing we can do for him, medically. He will be euthanized soon, but in the meantime, he’s going to have the time of his life.Donate here: Paypal.me/HoustonStreetDogsRsq#houstonstreetdogs
Posted by Houston Street Dogs on Friday, February 12, 2016