I love my dog. She’s small, annoying, cute, hops like a deer when excited, the perfect lap dog when she’s tired, and a brand new swimmer. I know I’m probably misusing the word “love” here, that we don’t really understand what we’re saying when we say we love hamburgers, our wives, God, and our dogs. I know there are four kinds of love in Scripture. And that’s all good. But I still love my dog.
Many of us do, and that is a good thing, so long as we keep a God-centered perspective about it. One of my closest friends just put his dog down—a dog he has had for many, many years, and a dog that meant a lot to his family. Here’s what he wrote to a few of us:
Just thought I would send an e-mail from my heart. Today was a tough day. Our dog had really slowed down in the last two weeks and stopped eating about 3 or 4 days ago and for the last two days could not even stand up anymore. It was finally his time. I took him to the vet this morning and I made the decision to put him down. We had prepared the boys last night that he would probably be put down today. They said their goodbyes last night and again before they went to school today. I slept by his side last night (well until about midnight when the baby woke up wanting a drink). He was a great dog and will be missed. I was thankful to our Creator today for making such a great creation and letting our family enjoy him for 10+ years. Big dogs like ours tend to only live about 9 years but he made it almost 12.5 years. In some ways we were sad that it kind of happened quickly but we are also thankful that he didn’t suffer for years. He had greatly slowed down over this last year and I thank God for the times that He prepared my heart and soul over this last year that our dog would go soon and that I should enjoy the time with him.
He was such a great dog to our boys and the bond that the boys and he had was very special. We took him to the property that we are building on and buried him in the back corner. (Thank goodness for the bobcat because he was a big dog and needed a big hole). We built a cool berm and placed a big rock (“Dog rock”)—it kind of looks like a dog. When the boys got home from school we took them over there and talked to them about him, the stories they remembered, the great times with their dog. We also talked about death and what happens when we die. That God gave us a soul that is eternal and that Jesus allows us to have our soul be with God for eternity. It was a great talk. We also talked about animals and the role that they play, that the Bible is pretty silent about if animals go to heaven. But we all decided that God created a great dog for us, and that God loved his creation, and that if any dog happens to get to go to heaven then ours would be one of them.
Losing a beloved dog, or any pet, is a shadow of losing a beloved spouse or friend or family member, which is a shadow of the kind of loss that will be no more in the age to come. The pleasure we feel in the simple things in life, like a warm body next to us on the floor, or a big paw on our knee, echoes the infinitely greater pleasure we will know in the presence of Jesus.
I’m thankful for my friend, and his dog, simply because I love them both, in a different way of course, but mainly because the pleasure I feel in this relationship points me to a greater pleasure that is ours to have in Christ.
Question: Who has been your favorite pet, and what have you learned from loving that pet?