death of dog · dogs · loss of a pet · Spirituality

A Good Dog

Two weeks ago, our sweet, loving, playful, and smart granddog Molly succumbed to cancer after a three-month illness. Adam and Jess, along with Molly’s extended family and many friends, have grieved deeply for her.

When so many are struggling with life and death during this terrible Covid time, the passing of a chocolate Lab may not seem important. Yet anyone who has loved a pet knows the pain and emptiness of missing that warm presence next to us on the couch. Especially after the last year, when so many of our social norms have been cut out, we have needed the unconditional love that we receive from our dogs, cats, and other pets more than ever.

I’ve wondered this week why we give ourselves over so completely to the animals in our lives when the pain is so intense when we lose them. Something must be in our DNA that causes our hearts to melt over a stumbling puppy or mewing kitten. Once we have let our guard down and allowed them in, both physically and figuratively, we are captive.

One of the reasons we love our pets so much is that they don’t filter their emotions like we humans. The pets I have loved have taught me about being present with my feelings and about letting those around me know how much I love them.

No one else in my life will greet me with the same excitement that Molly did when seeing me. If I came over to their house she would gallop around and grab a toy for me to throw. She often barked for pure happiness, like the first time I took her to the beach. I wish I had more in my life that makes me want to throw back my head and holler for joy.

Molly taught me about enjoying the moment. When she and I went for a walk, she would look back about halfway through with a look that said, “Aren’t we having fun?” She reminded me of the sheer pleasure of being outside in the sunshine, of smelling the trees and grass, and of delighting in the movement of my body.

Molly’s “aren’t we having fun?” face

Molly also taught me that it’s okay to feel sad. Although she was usually a happy dog, she did not filter her gloom when she had to be away from Adam and Jess for long. As she got older, especially in these last months when she had not felt well, she did not like any separation from them. The last time I was with her alone in their new house, she laid down on her bed, listless and depressed. Once Adam and Jess arrived, she was content.

How often do I make excuses for my times of unhappiness, feeling guilty instead of just accepting that sometimes life stinks? Life for Molly was black and white — with Adam and Jess she was happy, without them she was not.

This contentment that Molly felt when she was with Adam and Jess reminds me that I need to allow myself to relax more often in the presence of my Father and allow Him to take care of me. As long as she was with one of them, she felt safe and at home. She didn’t worry about what was going to happen next because she totally trusted that they would take care of her. I need more of that in my life.

For now, Adam and Jess must live in a life that goes on, in the words of poet Wendell Berry, “new-shaped by loss”. At the end of the well-known chapter on love, I Corinthians 13, are these words: “These three remain, faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.”  Molly was pure love, and that love remains as tangible as her soft fur against my cheek.

death of dog · grace · Running · Uncategorized

Grace shows up: a drama

Grace shows up: a drama

Cast of characters:

Me, enjoying a midweek run on a sunny evening

Ashley,  a senior in high school, on her way to youth group at her church

Junior, a white terrier dog, sitting on his front porch, watching for anyone passing his house

Act I

The three of us converge in front of Junior’s house at the exact same time. 

Me, slowly jogging, thinking about my tired legs 

Ashley, driving to church, thinking about – ? – her boyfriend, her math class, what to wear to school tomorrow?

Junior, sprinting toward the road,  thinking only about getting that person running in front of his house

In a flash – white car, white dog, a thud, a yelp, Junior in a heap by the side of the road

 

Why wasn’t I looking, why didn’t I stop him, what to do, what to do??

Me, banging on the door of the house, “Your dog has been hit!” no one home

Ashley, on the grass next to Junior, in tears

Junior, head at a strange angle, eyes glazed, breath barely

Me, running home for my car

Ashley crying, calling her mom

Junior, not moving

Act II

A new character, Anthony, Junior’s owner, found at his parents’ house

Anthony is in a wheelchair

Me, “I’m so sorry, but there has been an accident with your dog.”

Anthony, body slumping in chair, “Ever since he took up with that girl dog, seems like it gets on his nerves for anyone to go by the house.”


Act III

Another character, God’s Grace, enters

Back at Anthony’s house

Me, feeling guilty, especially because Anthony is in a wheelchair

Ashley, apologizing with tears

Junior, chasing runners in heaven

Anthony, standing up to hug Mary, offering to pay to have her bumper fixed, saying accidents happen, dignified and resigned

Grace, quietly filling the yard in the sadness