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April 4, 2013

Dignity of an old, afflicted dog

NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: Thank you very much for your sensitive and helpful response to our July 2012 letter regarding Loki, our 13-year-old mixed-breed dog. We deeply appreciate your empathy for animals and those who care for them.

The following is an excerpt from our 2012 Christmas letter to our friends and family:

“Loki, poor Loki. In addition to having Cushing’s syndrome and being blind, he was diagnosed this summer with vestibular disease — that means he is dizzy (and he’s not even a blond). He has, however, developed a certain sense of decorum.

“One night while being walked by Jon (dog-sitting while we were away), Loki picked up something from the street. Jon didn’t notice it until walking up our driveway. He saw that it was a sandwich, probably discarded by construction workers next door. He tried to pry it out of Loki’s mouth, but the dog would not give it up. Into the house Loki marched, went to his dog dish, deposited the sandwich and then ate it. I guess that legitimized the food. Not bad for a former street dog from Brooklyn.”

Thank you again for being there for our pets.

— J. and M.H.,

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Dear J. and M.H.: I have taken the liberty of sharing your intimate account of your beloved former street dog from Brooklyn.

In spite of his infirmities, he displayed better manners than many of our own species. Thanks to your devoted care of this old dog, he was not only able to enjoy some quality of life, but also to demonstrate a degree of sensibility that helps us deepen our appreciation for other creatures who enrich our lives in countless ways.

I like to think that we are beginning to settle the score of our indebtedness after centuries of exploitation and abuse of creatures — wild and tame — as more people support their local animal shelters, advocate animals’ rights, oppose cruel factory farms and support wildlife and habitat protection and restoration at home and abroad.

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