I had to put my dog down a couple weeks ago. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. To own an animal is to have a small piece of your heart wrapped inside a furry creature. And when they die, that piece of your heart goes with them.
I’ve had Rory (my dachshund) for ten years. She’s been through everything with me: all our moves, the births of three of my children, the ups and downs in life. Apart from God and my husband, she has been the only constant thing I’ve had. She loved to sit on the couch with me when I wrote or watched TV. And when I wasn’t on the couch, she would sit on her over sized pet bed and keep watch over our family.
A couple years ago, she developed a skin condition that made her lose her hair and smell really bad. We took her to multiple vets, but no one knew what was wrong with her. We could either pay hundreds of dollars and have extensive testing done, or just wash her every week with a special shampoo. Since we didn’t have hundreds of dollars in our bank account, I chose the shampoo. Every week for the last three years I have bathed Rory, scrubbing the dead skin away and conditioning her poor irritated body. It wasn’t fun, but it was my way of showing love for her.
This fall, she began to have problems with going to the bathroom in the house. I thought it was because I wasn’t letting her out fast enough and tried to be more diligent. Then on my birthday, she went to the bathroom in front of me (something she would never have done, she was such a proper little dog and always went outside). It was then I realized she couldn’t control herself anymore. Since we live in a rental house, she couldn’t stay inside any longer. With tears, I went and made a place for her to live in the garage.
As the month passed, she went downhill. Her skin condition became really bad, she was disoriented half the time, and she could hardly move. I then had to make one of the hardest decisions so far in my life: to let her live this way until she was in a lot of pain, or to let her go.
For a week I battled the decision. I couldn’t put my dog down. It hurt too much to think about her being gone. But I also knew to let her live like this was selfish on my part. It was time to let my friend go.
I sat outside and watched my dog sunbath in the driveway. She could barely move by then. Instead, she just sat there and enjoyed the sun. Autumn leaves fluttered across our lawn and God spoke to me. Not in an audible way, but in a quiet, soul touching way. The leaves made me think of seasons. Life is seasons: youth and life, hard work adulthood, then the twilight years when the leaves fall from the trees and the world prepares to rest. God watches over all the seasons, His hand is a part of each one. And when fall comes, He is there to gently bring to life to rest.
There is nothing to fear in death, although death itself is the antithesis of life. God has power even over death; nothing escapes His gentle hands. And so I knew that He would hold Rory and carry her over to the other side. What happens to animals when they die? I don’t know. But I do know God, and He is love. He loves all of his creation. He will do what is best for it.
Rory is gone now. I cried when that day came, and still cry. It means I have a heart, and part of it is gone. I like to think she is running through a field of green grass with that kind of hop and jump a dachshund has when they run. But wherever she is, she is with God now, free of the groans of creation. And there is no better place to be than in the hands of God.