Friday, August 7 2020 - 5:04 AM
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When Your Pet Dies

As I write in my study today, I can’t help but look over at the place on the rug in front of the window where our dog Teddy used to nap. He would spend many of his 15+-year-old naps on that spot or near my chair, chasing dream bunnies and occasionally softly yipping or sighing. For the past week we have been adjusting to life without our dog. And my heart demands, HE SHOULD BE HERE!

The loss of his physical presence seems to be a black hole in the oxygen for each room of the house. Everywhere I look in the house and yard, it’s as though someone with a big eraser came through. Our daily routines for feeding the pets their breakfast and supper, the two daily walks, treats before bedtime, weekend adventures and car rides, are all lacking someone. Walking outside seems naked without being attached to a dog on a leash or one meandering close by. At night I miss walking around his sleeping body next to my bed. Everything reminds us of him and what he enjoyed: popcorn, peanut butter, McDonald’s ice cream (minus the chocolate and nuts), barking at the neighbor dog, resting by the swimming pool. HE SHOULD BE HERE!

I’ve given away his leftover treats, food and meds, but I haven’t been able to take his leash and harness off the rack by the front door. I thought I was recovering from the grief, but the finality of our family loss became very real as I went to the vet’s to pick up his ashes. The box labeled with his name, the little plaster footprint, and a bit of his fur, just isn’t him. My heart also screams, “This is just so wrong.”

It’s not that I want my dog back in his aged condition. For months I missed the dog that I had loved for so long. I was constantly concerned about finding someone for care when we traveled. Some mornings we had to convince him to start eating, and evenings he was plagued by a kind of agitation. One day I noticed that his tail hung limp without any emotion. Bodily functions started to fail. Finally, we made the difficult decision to help him rest from his deaf, almost sightless, weak-legged, fatigued and suddenly very sick life. We were so thankful to find a kind house-call vet for his last day.

I’m blessed that my immediate family members are well and they love me. Friends, neighbors and family offer condolences. I feel some guilt for the depth of my pet grief—after all, I have said goodbye to my parents and my father-in-law. However, Teddy’s passage has reminded me of all the years with sick and declining parents. There is a kind of relief when you no longer worry about that sudden phone call or providing proper care. The mix of emotions for any family member’s decline and death can be confusing and draining. Death is just so wrong. For many holidays, birthdays, births and weddings we continue to ache with the sense, THEY SHOULD BE HERE!

Just like my former pets, Teddy didn’t deserve to get old, sick and die. He lived and died with the consequences of an infected planet. Yet his unconditional love was a reflection of his true Creator and Master. In the beginning of time, Genesis 1:24-25 (NIV) God made all the “creatures that move along the ground” and he saw that “it was good” (John 1:1-4) explains that in Jesus, The Word, all things were made and in him was life. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-22 about how sin has caused creation to be in bondage and the whole creation is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Paul also gives us hope in Acts 3:21, for a time when God will “restore everything.” In God’s New Jerusalem victory scene of Revelation 21:5, he says, “I am making everything new!” I marvel at that word, everything.

I want all of them back someday—healed, healthy and restored—all of the people and pets that I have loved. I believe that God wants all of them too. In the meantime, the pain of loss is lessened as I am grateful for the amazing gift of 15 years with my rescue dog. I am free to love a dog again, in time.

I think God understands my grief, and for all of us, furry or not, he cries, “THEY SHOULD BE HERE!”

Questions for personal journaling or group discussion:

  1. Have you been gifted with a special pet or animal? What have you gained in that relationship?
  2. What might keep people from loving again after a death or loss?

Karen Spruill writes from Florida.

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About Karen Spruill

Karen Spruill

writes from Orlando, Florida.

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