When my vet approached me with blood test results from my Bichon, Frosty, it felt like a gut punch. She informed me that he had 75% kidney failure. Nothing much they could do about it. Take him home, make him comfortable, and make the best of it. Of course they offered dog dialysis, but that was way over our budget and would seriously be torment for my pup, only to prolong his life for a few more weeks. Ten days after that diagnosis, we had to make the woeful trek to the vet, knowing this would be his last day on the earth.
The emotions that rise up when you have to put your dog down are difficult to describe as they touch an extremely deep place of grief. If you are not a dog lover, then you might not want to read on. But if your heart has been touched by the prodding of that cold nose, the look in their eyes that tells you how unconditionally loved you are, and the comfort given when they snuggle up beside you, then you know that ache when they are no longer with you.
As Frosty lay upon that table pitifully sick and thin, I couldn’t help but wonder what in the world is this all about. Why death? Why sickness? Why the ability to love so deeply a dependent creature, only to have them taken away in a few short years. Answers have come and gone and explanations have been given to try and lessen the pain. But the reality is that we live in the land of the dying and we will one fine day live in the land of Life eternal. That thought is extremely sobering, but true nonetheless.
So how do we cope when our hearts feel crushed? There are pills available of all descriptions that take the edge off. There’s alcohol, of course. There are walls to punch and God to blame…or even self to blame. But I’d like to offer another “remedy”, if you will. Press into the pain. Feel it deeply and let it run its course.
When Jesus prayed in Gethsemane He wailed to His Father, “Father, if You are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but Yours be done.” And even when His faithful friend, Lazarus had passed on, the Word records this extraordinary passage: “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.
I noticed that Jesus did not try to suppress His angst. He boldly and shamelessly displayed emotions that we might (in our very reserved, very respectful society) feel somewhat uncomfortable with. And even though Jesus was reacting to a human death, we’re told in Romans 8 that, “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” And, yes, that includes your beloved pets. And why is everything groaning? Because complete redemption has not taken place yet. In other words, the effects of the fall of man and the resulting curse have not been 100% lifted yet. So we groan, longing for all of creation to be redeemed and set free from the unbearable.
But there is a hope that one fine day this whole system will change into a glorious existence, void of sin, death, crying, or pain (Rev. 21). For the One who reminds us that not even an insignificant sparrow’s life goes unnoticed by the Creator (Matthew 10), also reminds us that we do not have to sorrow like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4).
After my encounter that sad April day many years ago, I’ve had to let go of other dogs and other people. My close friend just lost her dog of 12 years and now it’s my turn to offer her a shoulder to cry on and to just sit with her in her sadness. I can only comfort her with the comfort that I have received from the Lord, even though the heartache still remains as a reminder that this simply is not Heaven. I have no inspirational words to stave off her pain as these can be deceitful, maybe only making myself feel better that I’m doing something. The pain is real, but our God and His promises are undeniable. His Spirit is our Comforter.
So, love your beautiful beast well. Savor your moments together. And when it’s time to let them go, cry it out, press into God, and let Him remind you that He will remake it all. I can’t guarantee this, but I have a feeling that if that pet brought you incredible joy, our God will not hesitate to give back what the curse has taken.