when a pet dies

When a Beloved Pet Dies (feat. Cowboy)

October 27, 2007

After a little over 10 years together, my beloved dog and very close friend Cowboy died of heart disease. Years ago I had a friend whose dog died. I wrote something that would hopefully encourage her. Even though it was written about her dog named Zack, I think it best sums up what I would have written about Cowboy:

February 6, 2001

Dear Linda,

I found out from Nathan (her son) on Saturday about Zack’s death and was saddened to hear the news. Although we bought Cowboy to be “Lauren’s dog,” Cowboy instead “chose me.” He is my dog—much in the same way that David (her husband) told me Zack was yours. So as you are probably acutely aware, you don’t lose a pet that can readily be replaced with another; you lose a friend, and a close friend at that. It bothers me even now to think that one day I will have to say goodbye to Cowboy. In fact, it is mildly embarrassing how attached I am to him (or him to me?) From what I’ve heard, your relationship with Zack was quite similar—and I very much hurt for you.

One of my fondest memories ever was the first full day we had with Cowboy. Betsy and I stared out our window as three puppies (two human; one canine) raced each other in childhood exuberance, jumping the what-seemed-big-to-them-at-the-time creek in our backyard. Unabashedly laughing and squealing—peppered with an occasional “yip” at the joy of the moment. I turned to Betsy as we savored this life picture and said, “You know we’re handing them a heartache.” She never took her eyes off the three but merely nodded in silent agreement. We said nothing else for a while, as we both watched friendships beginning to develop that summer morning. Even to this day it is hard to express in words the blessed sanctity of that moment.

How would I ever know that I was actually making reference to myself when saying, “We’re handing them a heartache”?  But then again, wouldn’t we rather have the joy of the years together rather than the absence of anything or anyone to love? Heartaches are only derived from what our heart attaches itself to—and sometimes they come in furry packages.

Who knows what our heavenly Father has in store for us in our ultimate home. I could easily see it shared with this aspect of God’s creation. After all, animals were a part of God’s creation He originally called good, and “Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is not variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17). With a new heaven and a new earth promised by God (Rev. 21:1), who knows what good animals He has already sovereignly chosen to inhabit eternity. I know there are horses in heaven (Rev. 19:11, 14); it would by no means surprise me to see dogs there as well.

God bless you, Linda. I hope God gives you another heartache to love.


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