Monday, November 7, 2011

Thoughts on the Death of Our Dog

We had to euthanize our family dog Hallie last Tuesday (an Airedale Terrier). It’s a particularly painful and stressful event. Putting down a dear friend and family member is not an easy thing to do. Weighing the options for someone who can’t speak makes it all the more difficult. Hallie’s kidneys were failing and she was gradually winding down. She ate little, and didn’t even have the motivation to go up the stairs to her bed at night. Her death gave me cause to wonder if this would be what it would be like if the loved one of an unbeliever were to die. Since animals have no soul, their ending is truly the end. There is no afterlife for them, and when saying goodbye, no hope for their future, which is a very bad feeling. For someone who is not a believer, death is a very bleak thing, whether it's the death of a pet or a person. Yet for our family, there’s more to the story.

Though Hallie is gone for good, we still rejoice, knowing that she was a gift from God. In his explanation to the First Article of the Apostle’s Creed in the Small Catechism, Luther states that God gives me “animals, and all I have,” and in the Large Catechism he explains
Now, all that we have, and whatever else is in heaven and upon the earth, is daily given, preserved, and kept for us by God. Therefore, it is clearly suggested and concluded that it is our duty to love, praise, and thank Him for these things without ceasing.
Hallie was a true source of joy for us. She was always willing to tag along wherever we might be headed, and always had a smile on her face. Even on her last night, she still managed to greet all of the trick-or-treaters who visited our home. She was smart, faster than fast, gentle with kids, and a great watchdog – not to mention awesome looking, as the photo up above shows. There’s no one who could deny God’s hand in her creation.
"But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10 ESV
I marveled at her senses, far outstripping me in smell, sight, and hearing, and though she didn’t have a human brain, she was still able to learn and communicate with us in her own unique ways.

Yet even in all of these wonderful blessings from God there is sorrow. I can’t open the door without thinking she’s going to be behind it, ready to greet me. But that grief will end. The Lord promises:
He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation." Isaiah 25:8-9 ESV
As I chat with you, I’m thankful for what God has given us. Through the death of our dog, I can proclaim to you God’s goodness. He created the world, sustains it, and will redeem it and all believers. Through the death of His Son Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven, sorrow is wiped away, and joy is eternal. Our four-legged friend is gone, but our hope is not. Thanks be to God.

Zach and Hallie in 2006

Click below for a couple more Hallie photos.

Facing into a sea breeze at Cannon Beach in 2003

Hallie in her prime in 2008. She came from championship stock.


Cheryl said...

So sorry for your family's loss, Scott. Saying goodbye to a beloved pet is not easy. When my kids have asked whether they will see their pets in Heaven I have sometimes responded by saying that our pets don't have souls but God has promised that in Heaven we will have everything we could possibly need or want--that it will be perfect--and so it's not impossible to imagine that He might reconstitute those pets for our pleasure. Maybe that's a copout, but when you're looking at a kid with eyes full of tears sometimes copouts are in order. (And it makes me feel better, too.)

Norman Teigen said...

Pet grief is a real thing. My thoughts are with you. We have been through this and we know that it is a difficult time.

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks Cheryl and Norman. I appreciate it.

Fallhiker said...

My wife, Michelle, and I, offer our prayers to you and your family in this time. 2 years ago we had to put down both of our Springer Spaniels with just a couple of months of each other. We thought we could never get another dog to replace them, for about a year we walked around a tomb of a house constantly seeing reminders of Guenivere and Belevidere everywhere we looked. Last year a rescued Lab mix came to us in need and has turned the house upside down in play and good times again. "Heaven sent" is an appropriate term here. There nothing like being greeted at the door by something that loves you and melts your bad day away in a rush of excitment that only a dog can provide. God was thinking of us when he put dogs here to be our companion. How else could they be filled with such unconditional love.

a dog's version of ecclesiastes

To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to fetch that which is thrown and a time to runaway with that which is thrown;
a time to play ball and a time to rest (seldom)...
a time to pant and a time to make your owner laugh;
a time to run and a time to walk...
a time to cuddle and a time to sit in your cage;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to chew and a time to chew;
a time to keep silent and a time to bark;
a time to love and a time to love more;
a time for digging and a time for burying.

Karen J. said...

A moving and beautiful tribute to a loyal and loving friend. So very sorry for your loss. Hallie was fortunate, indeed, to be a part of your family.

Jim Pierce said...

So sorry to read about your family's loss, Scott. Our pets can truly be a blessing from God and are sorely missed when they die. I had to make the decision to euthanize my all time favorite dog many years ago and I still remember Joy fondly.

Scott Diekmann said...

I like your "dogs version" Fallhiker. Thanks Karen and Jim.

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