Playing God

M. Sandra Babcock

© Copyright 2001 by M. Sandra Babcock



Photo of a greyhound.
I don’t like playing God. The role is demanding, the rewards few. We carefully rewrite the script on the life and death decisions when that adorable new star, who never acted on cue a day in their furry four-legged life, has now became as important to us as the stage technician is to the celebrity. Life’s plays would be one long melodramatic scene without their incessant wagging tail, potty marks and digging-to-China holes in the backyard.

I don’t like playing God and shirk the role of the ubiquitous Almighty like a weighty shroud. Still, I’m stuck . . .with no way out. As the dutiful understudy to an overbooked star, I will eventually take center stage, one by one. I’m a resistant thespian though, throwing caution to the wind and casting my script aside - again - waiting for the Almighty to step back in and take over my lines. I think the Big Person is busy with all the commotion we humans place on each other. I’m sure there have been times when God, too, was a resistant actor. Hey, God, I comprehend the daily gut-wrenching role you play. Still, you’ve been performing this gig since the dawn of time – and I’m a mere walk-on stumbling through my lines. It’s tough getting the part down with precision and accuracy. Still, the show must go on.

Somehow, in the great scheme of things, humans were blessed with choice, cursed with decision-making, paralyzed with promise keeping. The wagging tail slows, the leg drags a bit, and like Candy’s faithful dog in Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men, the unmistakable odor of dying is evident. The heart grows heavy with decisions made from duty and yes, love.

In 1989 I stumbled across a good friend. At the time, I didn’t know how good a friend he was. In his youth, Chip was an athlete who sprinted across the finish line in fine form, but that was a long time ago, and as anyone knows, when an athlete is washed up – well it’s pretty much a done deal. Chip needed a home and my place needed another body floating around. We took evening walks and I discussed the day’s concerns while Chip moved beside me glancing up periodically, questioning my sanity. But his eyes conveyed understanding and acceptance. He remained a constant. I found myself thinking of him during the day, wondering how he was faring at home. My husband began suspecting something was amiss but the problem was he loved Chip almost as much as I did.

In The Outermost House, Henry Beston wrote, “For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.”

In 1998, just as the February frost let go its hold on Spokane, I said goodbye to my best friend. His journey complete; the voices he followed that were beyond my understanding, beckoned to him nonetheless. I had to play God – I hated playing God, but I had to. The curtain rose on a reluctant understudy. Even now it haunts.

And the haunting will continue for there are other retired greyhounds and their smaller kin, Italian Greyhounds, who share our lives. All endearing, all different. But, as the seasons pass with the ebb and flow of life, their health fades and legs weaken from age; infections are more pronounced. Dazzle, a mom six times by her sixth birthday in her puppy-mill days, now approaches twelve. Her small body shakes violently from seizures. Admiral’s once strong racing legs are now unsteady; his breathing, labored. I hear the faint call of the casting director. The time is approaching . . . the vet’s number hangs on the bulletin board.

I don’t like playing God. I wish the Big Kahuna would drop in and make this easier but I don’t think my cell phone reaches that call perimeter. I keep trying and the busy signal keeps buzzing and the humans keep screwing up and the director keeps prompting me to get the part down because “the show must go on!” And I’m under an ironclad greyhound union contract that has me bound tighter than a choke chain.

The curtain sways slightly, lights from the stage peek from beneath. The theater is ominously empty. Playing God is a lonely act; there are no accolades for this performance. I will have to play God – again - to a sold-out crowd of one.

Part Two: The Star Returns

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