Yesterday, we had to put our dog to sleep. It was all very sudden. Rascal wasn’t old…just sick. Without warning, she woke up Tuesday with no appetite, unable to walk and by Wednesday morning we were told she wouldn’t recover. It sucks.
If you’ve ever had to go through the experience of losing a pet, you know. I find myself wanting to run back and get her — to take back the whole episode and re-work the scenario…as if it were an option. So now as my family and I walk through the house, every little thing seems to be tied to a sweet, funny tear-provoking memory. For instance, every time I head up stairs I expect to have to step over her basking like a lioness mid-staircase. At this point it makes me tear up every time. (Thankfully, her sister from the same litter seems to be handling it much better than the rest of us.) I hate it, but I wouldn’t trade it. That’s what the risk of love does to my heart; it makes the sweet more substantive than the bitter.
Everyone knows that most dogs don’t live past fifteen. Our beautiful, yellow lab was nine. So why set myself up for the heartache? I think because rarely have I felt so loved. Pets really do love unconditionally. And, we received enough of our sweet puppy’s furry cuddles, unsolicited kisses, spontaneous romps and silly antics to warm our hearts through to heaven.
Though in a previous post I equated her to Satan, it was merely for the analogy. Rascal was a saint in dog clothing. When I was at my most ornery, this dog would just look at me in a lovingly puzzled way (OK, maybe it was pity but I prefer loving puzzlement) and wait for it to pass. When I was sad, instead of walking away from the discomfort like some people do, she would move in, nuzzle-up and share my pain. When she would see any of us, without fail the “thump, thump” of her tail wagging would reflexively begin. When she heard the garage door go up, she’d meet me at the doorway wiggling all over with her pink rubber bone in her mouth as if to say, “I’m so excited you are here! You’re my favorite! Let’s play!” Who wouldn’t feel loved?!
Like the bumper sticker says, “I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.” This nails it. Rascal made me better, less harsh, more compassionate. She taught me patience and the grace of love. If we are called to “be Jesus with skin on,” Rascal was Jesus with fur on. She loved first and without question.
The dogbite of love hurts..but love heals all things.
Sneaking a snooze on the furniture
Cuddly Rascal, last Sunday
Want an adventure? Spend a day paying attention to how the animal(s) in your life — or in your path — reflect the nature of Christ. What can you learn from them?
If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men. ~ St. Francis of Assisi