This week we were supposed to keep Molly, Rich and Sandi’s Big Brown Chocolate Lab, at our house while her “parents” were out of town. We had planned play dates, and a time at the river, which she loved so much. But our week has not turned out like that. Yesterday, Molly could not move. The tumor pressing on her esophagus and old age caught up with her and her vet was called to help her to heaven.
Death is always hard, and especially hard when we have to make decisions around it. Something about losing a dog is especially hard. They are such constant company, often even more so than our parents, our children, or our spouses. And they certainly love us more unconditionally than most any thing on earth, except God.
As we cried over Molly yesterday, we remembered their names, the dogs of our lives: Red, Shorty, Rebel, Pom Pom, Chester, Scooter, Fred, Booh, Moses, Toasty, Henry, Egg, Gus, June, Freckles, Dale Jr., Lacy, Chancey. Clara and Lucky are still with us. Lucky for us.
Red was a big Irish Setter. He was actually my uncle’s dog, but Uncle Walter could not take him to New York when he went to work up there. So Red stayed with us. Red liked retrieving the New York Times, which was delivered every day at Uncle Walter’s house across the street. Red was struck and killed by a car one morning when he went to pick up the paper.
You have seen his star. Some of you call it Orion’s Belt, the three stars in a little row in the winter sky. Their real names are Inky, Red, and Stripey. Inky was a black cat, Stripey was a gray striped cat, and Red, a beautiful dog with great loyalty to his master, and great joy in performing his task of getting the paper. I was a child; this is how I remember him.
Chelsea was a mixed breed dog who liked to ride in a pick up truck. When she got cancer, her people brought her to the church I was serving. I kept a “We Bless Animals Here” sign on my door where my name could have been. When the time came for Chelsea to be freed from her pain, I met her people at the vet’s office and prayed with them. When her ashes came, and because I knew where the key to the Saint Francis Garden was, we sprinkled her ashes in the garden under the statue of Saint Francis. It just seemed like the right thing to do. There is a small stone there still marking the place. (Don’t tell anyone I told you this.)
I see on Facebook the losses you post of your pets, your sadness and pain in the loss. I touch the screen and pray blessing. My iPad has fingerprints all over it. Pain of losing our companions who have met us at the door with tails wagging, jumping up and down with joy hoping we will walk or play ball, nuzzling the back of our legs to say “welcome home, I am glad to see you” is real and deep. Our dogs are such reflections of the unconditional love of God it’s hard to miss that connection. My daughter asked me yesterday if I believe dogs go to heaven.
I haven’t actually been to heaven yet, but I think that in the end God gathers up all the love of our dogs and all creation and brings it home to where God is. Of all creation, our dogs teach us more about love and forgiveness than we teach each other. That is why they were created. Big wet licky tongues and slurpy kisses are a sign that God is with us and all is well.
We will miss you, sweet Molly girl. You were a precious soul among us. Sweet like your mama, Bailey. All of us are thankful to have shared a little bit of life with you. I hope there are tennis balls up there, and a coastline for you to run and play in the rolling waves. You were pure joy and blessing to us. We’ll catch up with you soon.