God cares even about the death of a beloved pet:
Death is a normal part of life – at least in a fallen world. But the good news is, a fallen world is not normal – it is not God’s intention. So death is also abnormal. While we all die in this life, the good news for the Christian is that those who are reconciled to God through Christ will avoid death as an end, but will live with God forever. Death will be no more.
As we read in Revelation 21:4: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” That is such wonderful news.
But until then, we do live with pain and suffering and heartache and tears and death. That is life in this world. And losing a family member or loved one or close friend can be very hard indeed. But there are other types of death, including that of our beloved pets. That too can be quite grievous.
Given that we have just gone through this a few hours ago, allow me a bit of a personal story. If that is not your cup of tea, feel free to stop reading now, or skip through to the end! But for those who know what this is like, you may find something of benefit here.
Our beloved Daisy, a Border Collie cross, was 16 ½, which is doing pretty good. She especially loved balls and sticks, and was not unknown to carry around 6 or 8 sticks at a time, or several balls in her mouth. But of course age catches up with dogs as well as humans. She had been going downhill for at least a year and a half, and I just remembered that I wrote about this back then: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2021/06/30/dealing-with-decay-dying-and-death/
She may have had a few seizures or strokes or heart attacks or something back then, but she was never quite the same after that. Her fast walks and plays came to an end. And up until recently I could still take her for walks, but very slow walks. But 6-year-old Jilly wanted to race ahead. When both were on leashes, I would feel I was being torn asunder, with one lagging behind while the other was seeking to speed ahead.
But we managed. However her hind legs were clearly getting worse. And just recently she would just collapse fairly often, whether from fainting, or from her legs giving way. We would let her sit there for a bit, then try to help carry her back to a good spot. Walking or just standing was really getting to be difficult for her during the past few days.
And she even started to lose interest in food and drink – now that is getting serious! My wife has worked as a zoo keeper and vet assistant, so she knew what was happening. The old questions of do you seek to have her put down, or let her naturally leave us, or hope she might improve of course came to mind.
We tended to take turns in looking after her, as I am a night person while my wife is a morning person. And last night was a rough night. During the past year or two she has taken to laying/sleeping in the front hallway, so we had a sleeping bag there for her.
Last night at midnight she got up but only made it a few steps but then collapsed again, near the front door. We have had quite cold and wet weather of late, so I tried to put blankets and things in front of the door to block the cold air blowing in on her. I covered her with blankets as well, but did not like her laying there on the cold hard floor. But as she is a largish dog, I did not try to lift her just then.
So I got some cushions and pillows and laid them next to her, and I laid on them, keeping her company for nearly two hours. It was not comfortable being on the cold hard floor, but I knew it was uncomfortable for her being on the cold hard floor. I prayed that the Lord might take her.
So I stayed with her, lying by her side, patting her head and trying to comfort her. At one point I sensed the Lord saying that just as I was doing that to her, he does that to me, and to his other children. He cares about us and comforts and consoles us, and he does so by entering into our situation. He is not afar or aloof, but enters into our sufferings that he might comfort us – even when we may not know he is there.
Speaking of which, a social media friend had just earlier asked me if I ever felt God was absent or silent or seemed like a long way off. I said sure, often, and mentioned one piece I had written on this: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/03/28/divine-hiddenness-on-gods-silence/
While I could offer her that intellectual and theological help in the article, maybe what I went through last night would be of even more help to her. Anyway, I eventually pulled up a lounge chair and watched Daisy that way for a while. But then I tried to lift/carry her back onto her sleeping bag. I succeeded, and was quite glad she was further away from the front door, and was lying in a much softer and warmer place.
So I left her around 3am and went to bed. She was still there when my wife got up. But a few more attempts to walk resulted in her collapsing some more. So we talked and prayed some more and realised we might best just take her to the vet and let her go. So we booked an appointment for this afternoon.
The vet agreed to administer the injection in the car, which is a place Daisy always liked to be in. Of interest, after we managed to get her in the car and got to the vet, someone else had just pulled in before us and were doing the very same thing: having their dog put down. I tried to chat with them but they seemed too bummed to converse, instead smoking away on cigarettes.
And also of interest, our friendly neighbour from across the street just happened to come in as well, so she went to the car to talk to my wife briefly while I went in to talk to the vet. So a little bit of Daisy’s fur was shaved off, a vein was found, and a thingee was put in by a vet nurse, and then the vet administered the medication. We gave her a few treats to munch on, but within seconds she was fast asleep – never again to awaken.
Of course so many others go through the very same thing. It is always tough to see a loved pet be sent off. And it is of course so much worse when a human dies, be it a family member or what have you. I thought of what we would miss. Her sleeping bag will be picked up and washed and put away. Her eating bowl will not be needed.
Her pain-relief medicine will not be needed. That and other vet expenses will come to an end – although today’s bill was not exactly small! And she will no longer go for walks with us. Of course with my wife’s cancer this year, I have done all the walking and such things. My wife is sad that she missed out on those.
But now Jilly will have our full attention, along with our cat. Jilly had two solo fast walks today – that will be our new normal. I made my wife dinner, and instead of carefully giving each dog one plate to lick off, now Jilly had two of them to enjoy. So changes are already under way.
But as I say, imagine the pain and grief of a human death. Imagine losing a 15-year-old son or daughter. Imagine walking past their empty bedroom. Imagine going in and seeing the books, magazines, games, posters, awards and trophies. Fresh reminders every day of a lost child. The tears will keep flowing for a very long time.
So I realise that my tears compare little to such human loss. But pet losses are real losses nonetheless, and the tears are also real. And it is at a time like this that legit questions will arise, such as whether we will see our pets in heaven. But on that topic I wrote this piece a few years back: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2019/07/06/will-our-pets-be-with-us-in-heaven/
Anyway, to finish this rather rambling piece, when we got home, I opened a cheap bottle of bubbly so we could give Daisy a toast. We of course miss her dearly already. And the pain will last for a while. But I must return to where I began. The Christian has hope – real hope.
Whether or not we will see Daisy when we get to heaven is not clear. But we will see all the loved ones who had come to Christ, be they family members or friends or co-workers. We will be reunited with them, and best of all be reunited with our Lord. He too knew all about long lonely nights or prayer and hardship, including when his own disciples could not stay awake with him in Gethsemane.
In that final day death will be no more, and there will be no more tears. But in the meantime, one of my favourite Old Testament verses reminds us that we can have real comfort and hope now: “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8, NLT).
Tears and sorrows, decay and death abound now. But they will one day come to a complete and final end. What good news that is.
In the meantime, bless you Daisy.