God blessed them [Adam and Eve] and said to them, “…fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28 (NIV)
Strap in tight and grab a box of tissues, y’all. This post is uncharacteristically longer than my normal because recent days have been anything but normal and writing is therapeutic.
This past Monday, I made the excruciating decision to have our faithful Smooth Hair Fox Terrier put to sleep. I use the common phrase to avoid the metallic taste of saying “euthanasia.”
Dottie had suffered declining health to the point where she would no longer eat or drink. Probably the ravages of renal failure, origin of which is known only to the Lord.
To think, three weeks ago she’d rebounded from a urinary tract infection and was back to her antics, jumping on and off the bed to urge me to wake up.
Food awaited. You see, the deal was that she got the last little bite of my toasted bagel every morning.
Oh, how I’ve grieved this week! Real, authentic tears.
These furry creatures we love take up residence in so many places around the house and in our hearts, don’t they?
One stray white dog hair and I’m a wreck.
Out of habit, I’ve frequently glanced down beside my writing desk to gaze as her peaceful, curled body while she napped near my feet but, instead, am assaulted by a bare wood floor where her pink, heart-shaped pillow and blanket used to be.
It takes mental exertion to walk past the garage door where she entered and exited through the doggie door without envisioning the hazy image of her triangular face through the thick, nose-smudged acrylic flap.
I look through the glass door in the breakfast room, waiting for her face to appear to indicate she’s finished her business out in the grass and is ready to be let back inside.
I see her on the front porch — Dottie’s porch — a sleek black and white beauty. Symmetrical, well-defined lines, and perfect paws.
A visual delight to passers by. Those classic triangular ears that crowned her bright brow perpetually perked.
The perfect stance of a winner, born from an award winning, pure bred show champ named Kissie.
When I pass by her formerly designated eating area, I still step around her food and water bowl for fear of crushing dry dog food beneath my feet or slipping on dribbles of water after she lapped.
During a phone conversation the other day with one of my brothers I shared how very difficult this has been.
“I just can’t wrap my brain around the fact that I made the proactive decision—although a right one—to call to a mobile vet to come to my house so she could inject a lethal substance into my dog’s body in order that her heart would stop.”
The weight of that reality sucks air from my lungs.
“God gave us dominion over the animals,” he said.
To that point, he elaborated on the loving relationship God has with his creation, creating man and woman in his own image, peace and blessing to be had when we come under his authority. During our sovereignly designated time on earth, we are to rule over or subdue the animals.
They were designed for companionship, to offer a source of joy, and to give us the privilege of assuring their well-being. But with the blessing of owning an animal, we bear the responsibility to care for them and do what is best for them.
When their quality of life has reached its end, we must love them well.
In my natural state of mind, that would never look like choosing to end the life of a treasured pet.
Still, I get it. Dottie exhibited evidence of suffering, each hour worsening, death inching closer with each breath.
To rule or have dominion over her, I needed to exercise my God-given responsibility in the biblical sense. Thus, it was loving and right to return Dottie to the tender care of her Creator before her increasingly confused mental state put her wandering, bony frame at risk for a far worse fate.
The hollowness of my heart bears evidence that we are not made for loss and healing will take time.
I do believe there will be animals inhabiting the new earth as was intended, formerly ravenous lions peaceable with lambs. But to satisfy an ache to know, I asked my brother a common question.
“Do you think we will be reunited with our pets in heaven?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
On that point, we agreed. I don’t know either.
But what I do know is that I trust God and his character where Dottie is concerned.
Whether or not I will be greeted in eternity with her fully restored, furry body, tail wagging so rapidly she’ll characteristically wiggle sidelong as she makes her way my direction, nothing about heaven will be disappointing.
It will be impossible to set my gaze on the face of Jesus, find something lacking in his presence, and lament, “But…did you restore my Dottie?”
Revelation 5:13 provides a word of encouragement.
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth…singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”
Who knows? Maybe Dottie will be among those in the animal choir. But until that day, I have rest of heart knowing I exercised loving and selfless dominion over her and am confident—even in grief—God is smiling.
How have you handled the loss of a pet? I’d love to hear your stories.
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