I’m a terrible decision maker. Not that I make bad decisions, I just have a hard time deciding what to do. Something as simple as where to eat after church on Sunday, what color to paint a room, or where to go on vacation can send me into a dizzying tailspin of confusion and indecision. So for someone who has trouble deciding on tacos or pizza, beige or gray, the beach or Boston, what do you do when faced with a decision of life or death?
I made a very good decision about fifteen years ago.
Sitting at a computer screen perusing an animal rescue site, I saw her. Little bitty ears, bright eyes, and a playful face…I knew we had to have her. So we packed up the family van with a little clothes basket and blanket in the back and drove to the Franklin County Animal Shelter in Belvedere, Tennessee. There in the front office we met the little black and white pup we had seen on the screen. They had affectionately named her Bonnie and she was the unofficial office pup, scampering freely in the office with her other little furry partner in crime. Bonnie had had a rough start: abandoned, wormy, malnourished, found wandering on the side of a busy highway, narrowly avoiding traffic. Someone had rescued her and brought her to safety and nurture. She was 10-12 weeks old when we met her and she wasn’t wormy, malnourished, neglected, abandoned, unwanted, or unloved any longer. She was playful and thriving as she bounced around the office, back and forth between our excited children.
In the van and into the padded clothes basket she went. We had already named her before we even saw her in real life. No longer Bonnie…welcome home Molly Ann Foster!
We’ve always been dog-people. Molly joined big brother Zack, also a rescue, and the next several years consisted of dog toys, backyard chases, treats, and snuggles . There was the fishing-lure-up-the-nose-requiring-surgery incident, but mostly fun, furry times. It would take hours to list all the love, laughter, memories, and blessings that Molly brought to us all. Dogs are like that. “Man’s best friend.” Also, kids’ best friend…and mom’s best friend. 🙂
Days turn into weeks and months and years. Even as I write this, I feel the weight of a hard day, week, and year. Today I made one of the hardest decision I’ve ever made: to let Molly go. It was a family decision along with discussions with the vet, numerous friends, and even Facebook advice. But I was the one who took her for that last dreadful drive. Honestly, it felt a little like betrayal. But also mercy, compassion, and love.
Actually, it didn’t really feel like love at the moment. It felt necessary, but it also felt like a hard, heavy, ultimate betrayal. Like I was giving up. I was supposed to protect her and make the best decisions for her.
I am thankful for a friend who called at just the right moment.
A friend who loved Molly as her own, who puppy-sat her on our first trip away, who created so much excitement in Molly that it made Molly pee a little every time she saw her. Maybe that’s a little too much information, but funny every time. A friend who had walked the same road and told me I did the right, loving, merciful thing. A friend who believes our pets are gifts from God and who believes we will see our pets again. Maybe some people don’t believe that; but I do. I believe she is free and whole and pain free, and running with her big brother, Zack.
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. Proverbs 31:26
What would I say to Molly? That I’m sorry. That I tried everything, every medicine, every prayer that I had. That she was so good, so loved, so wanted. That she was beautiful and smart. She was chosen and she was perfect. That I miss her already. That she had a good life and her life made our lives better. What could be a better tribute for anybody? Your life made someone else’s life better.
I don’t cry often but I’ve found myself weepy all day. At the vet, on the way home, in the middle of Sam’s, with every phone call, with every typed word. And that’s okay. It tells me that it matters, it hurts, it’s loss; but mostly it’s love and privilege. I’ll always be a dog lover. They bring out the best in us and model unconditional love and acceptance. I didn’t write the following passage, but I wish I had.
And on the 9th day God looked down on his wide eyed children and said, they need a companion.
So God made a Dog.
…God said I need somebody willing to sit, then stay, then roll over, then with no ego or complaint dress in hats they do not need and costumes they do not understand… Somebody who no matter what you didn’t do or couldn’t take or didn’t win or couldn’t make, will love you without judgment just the same.
So God made a Dog.
God said I need somebody strong enough to pull sleds and find bombs and yet gentle enough to love babies and lead the blind. Somebody that will spend all day on a couch with a resting head and supportive eyes for the broken heart.
So God made a Dog.
It had to be somebody who would remain patient and loyal even through loneliness, somebody to care, cuddle, snuggle, and nuzzle and cheer and charm and snore and slobber and eat the trash and chase the squirrels. Somebody who would bring the family together with an open heart. Somebody to bark, and then pant and then reply with the rapid wag of a tail, when their best friend says, “let’s go for a ride in the car.”
So God made a Dog.
God said I need somebody who would stand at your side when the world around you collapses. Somebody to lie next to you during the long nights of pain and sorrow when it hurts to move, to talk, or think, or be. Somebody to stand guard, play games, snore for hours and repeat as needed. Somebody to give you strength when you have none of your own. Somebody to fight when you have no fight left, to hold onto your soul as if it were their favorite toy, playing tug of war to keep you in this world. Somebody to be your companion and guide in this world and the next. Somebody to wait for you on the other side or stand guard in your absence until they can join you for eternity.
So God made a Dog
(From a popular Facebook video)
For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird on the mountains, and all the animals of the field are mine. Psalm 50:10-11