The church knows.
They know how I feel about dogs. I am a dog person and if my dogs didn’t run them off, I would be a cat person too. We love our pets. There are occasions when a church member has whispered to me as they leave church, “we had to put our dog or cat to sleep this week.” It is a sad time in a pet owner’s life. We love our pets. They are a part of the family. I quietly whisper a prayer for those pet owners because they are hurting.
Lizzie the Labrador was our first chocolate Lab. She was a birthday present in 2004. She came from hunting stock. From her puppy days, she knew what a duck decoy was and could retrieve it for as long as someone could throw it. She also had this thing about retrieving rocks.
One vet said that Lizzie had a rock fetish. She liked to or needed to chew rocks. There wasn’t much chewing, there was only swallowing. Three times she swallowed a rock that stopped up her doggy digestive system. Three times the vet operated on her. Three times we received a bill for eight hundred dollars for rock removal. At the last rock surgery, we asked if the doctor would install a zipper to save us both trouble and money. The doctor gave us one way of curing the rock fetish. He said, “Remove all the rocks from your yard.” Maybe the problem was the dog didn’t like the rock ground cover in the flower beds. I performed a rockectomy on the yard muttering about the dog the whole time.
When I lived in Mandeville, she had given up rocks. She blew out her ACL instead. You guessed it, Lizzie had knee surgery. I won’t tell you how expensive that was, but it made the rock surgeries look cheap. For six weeks after the surgery, Lizzie could not run or play hard. She needed to be watched carefully. About half way through the recovery, I decided that the only way keep her from playing was to take the silly dog to work with me. I did pay careful attention to the people Lizzie barked at and the ones for whom she wagged her tail. It turned out that Lizzie was a very good judge of Methodist character.
In these past months Lizzie has been struggling with her arthritis. I knew a difficult decision was looming. That difficult decision day was this Tuesday. She was eleven years old and for a Lab that is ancient. We took her on Sunday to my daughter’s house to let her swim. She loved to swim.
On Tuesday I piled her in the car and we went for a good drive before going to the vet’s office. Once there, we entered a room. The doctor gave her a potent shot to relax her and Lizzie fell asleep with her head resting on my feet. It was a sweet and sad farewell.
I am asked if animals go to heaven. My short answer is, of course they do. Heaven is described as a place where the lion and the lamb lay down together. Don’t you imagine that the cats and the dogs will finally get along too? Paul said that the entire creation is groaning, awaiting the day of redemption. Aren’t animals a part of that creation? Thus endeth the lesson as one preacher said.
We miss Lizzie. She stayed close so she could beg for treats. She waited by and watched the backdoor until her humans were home. She especially loved Friday mornings because she got donut holes before men’s bible study. She barked when we were too slow giving her a treat. Her big tail seemed to always be thumping a wall. She was old and crippled but she was also spoiled and much loved. I’m telling you, “I had to put my dog to sleep this week.” It hurts.
The technical name for this emotion is bereavement. It is defined as, “the state or fact of being bereaved or deprived of something or someone.” We feel it when we lose a loved one. We feel it when we lose a job. We feel it when we move. We feel it when we graduate and go into the real world. We feel it when our kids leave home or get married. We feel it when our vitality changes. We feel it when we open our own business or are promoted at work. We even feel it when we get married. Bereavement is our emotional response to change.
Good changes or bad changes don’t matter to our psyche; we will feel some measure of bereavement. Some of it is fleeting, most of it passes quickly, but there is another kind that can lead to depression and despondency. The best antidote for bereavement is to talk about your feelings with someone who loves you and understands “being deprived of something or someone.”
Jesus told His followers to pray. The Apostle Paul would encourage the church to “pray without ceasing.” Prayer is talking to God who listens and responds because He loves us. When we are in the midst of bereavement we need to talk it out and talk it through. Is there a better listener than the Lord?
Lord…I miss Lizzie.