Friday, February 21 2020 - 2:33 AM
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Old Dogs

I know most of the dog people in my neighborhood. I know most of the dogs’ names even though I don’t know the owners’ names. So this morning when I got out of our car after our dog ride/walk, I didn’t see Oliver with his people. As the owner-couple approached our driveway, I had to ask, “What happened to your dog?” Then they looked sad as they started to tell us that Oliver had recently died at the age of eight. Oliver’s human mom appeared red eyed as she told me, “I just keep crying, I miss him so much.” She knew something about Oliver wasn’t healthy and they went to the veterinarian, but they weren’t ready for his abrupt death. I shared my condolences with these neighbors and added our concerns about our own almost-15-year-old dog.

A few weeks ago while I was away from home, my husband told me that our Teddy could not get up. I had known for some time that he would ultimately succumb to the narrowing of his spine above his hind legs. And we have been aware that his eyesight and hearing are rapidly declining. We have had to make adjustments. He used to herd his ball and sometimes the cats, now we have to guide him on walks. Months ago he started resisting leash walking and insisted on smelling whatever strikes his fancy. We purchased a ramp for those times when he might not be able to get into the car (he loves car rides). He has had problems lowering himself to eat out of his dish so we ordered a new dish that is more at his chest level. Sometimes he brings me one of his old toys but the desire to fetch them is very limited. He rarely comes to greet us when we return home, so we go to find where he is sleeping.

In human years Teddy is probably more than 100 years old. In many ways he is a different dog from the one with which we were familiar. His habits are not that different from the parents who have lived to the century mark. Teddy lives for his food and his routine. He spends many hours napping in several favorite floor places and no longer can be found on our bed. He still loves his treats. We know that we are sharing him on “borrowed time.” I miss the young Teddy but I still love this one.

I wonder what it was like for Adam and Eve when they lost their first beautiful animals to death. They may have had those special pets for hundreds of years. And then the sorrow of regularly killing lambs for sacrifices entered their lives. All those innocent trusting animals, while also seeing the animals change, and fight and kill. Surely the blight on the world was ever before them.

Even our dear family pets are innocent victims in a world that has “gone wrong.” We joke about cloning the very best of our pets but everything must die. I have “lost” many pets during the years of my life. It never gets easier to say good-bye, but I am so thankful that we can make decisions to ease their pain. I think of Jeremiah 12:4: …because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished.” And Romans 8:22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” But we humans have hopes, knowing that this world will be made new again, and pain and death will be no more (Revelation 21:1-5).

As other authors have noted, I believe that God gave our pets a purpose, and he often speaks to us through them in many ways. We are honored to share our lives for a while and they encourage us to open our hearts. There is sorrow in parting, but we can be certain that treasured memories or another pet can enrich our moments on this crazy, wonderful planet.

Questions for personal journaling or discussion:

  1. Read Genesis 1: 20-28. What do think “ruling over” all the creatures means?
  2. What do you say to those who are grieving the death of a pet?

Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

 

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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