October 06, 2021

At The End Of The World by Bob Jones

 


Three words rocked our world. They weren’t unexpected.

 

She has cancer.

 

“It’s in her spleen, stomach, kidneys, and it looks like some spots on her lungs. I’m so sorry.” The ultrasound confirmed our worst fears. My wife and I couldn’t look at each other. The drive  home was in heavy silence. We knew the next 24 hours would change everything. What are we going to do? How do we tell our boys? Why did it have to come to this? Again.

 

Anyone who has never allowed a dog to become a part of the family won’t understand or appreciate the devastation of a terminal diagnosis. Lord knows, it’s just a dog. I mean no disrespect to those who suffered the loss of a loved one or face a terminal diagnosis. 


Anne Lamott is one of my favourite writers. Her dog died on October 4th. She wrote, "My beautiful pal passed away yesterday at home. She had (somehow) gotten old. She was the perfect person and had the most beautiful smile. It is the end of the world and I feel that I will never have a moment’s happiness again. You may know the feeling. Sigh."

 

"The end of the world."  Couldn't say it better. This was the third time with the exact same diagnosis. All were Golden Retrievers. They had names - Tammy. Sprite. Silver. Each one had a unique personality. All were love on four legs.

 

Ironically, when Jocelyn was diagnosed with cancer her despair wasn’t nearly as intense as when three of our dogs were stricken with cancer. We had to put each one down. The drive to the clinic was like walking down death row. Meeting with a vet drove up the anxiety level in each of our dogs and they were never happier than when we left a clinic to go home. Silver had no idea she was not coming out of the clinic alive. A few last moments alone with her in the vet’s treatment room allowed all the memories to flood in. The puppy training, balls to fetch, leashes, cuddling on the floor, the first time leaping into a lake, road trips, dog slobber. Just a few months before Silver's life came to an end, she travelled with us from Edmonton to cottage country in Ontario. It was a family vacation in the truest sense of the word.


 

The night before Silver’s last day was spent in the living room together. The leather couch was off limits for her except that night. There wasn’t much sleeping. With first light, she got her favourite treats. The struggle to get them down assured us we were making the right decision on her behalf. That didn’t make the decision any easier.

 

We didn’t get another puppy. That’s not a choice for everyone, but for us we couldn’t and still can’t bring ourselves to face the same outcome. We find our joy in other people’s dogs for now.

 

When a parent, spouse, child or someone close to us dies, our loss is usually met with sympathy, comfort, and sincere condolences. We are allowed to grieve. We are allowed to cry. We are encouraged to experience our emotions.

 

But pet owners who have had a terminally ill dog euthanized hear quite a different story. Many will tell you that most people did not understand the depth of their grief. Some even experienced the gross insensitivity of a comment like, “Why don’t you just get another pet?”

 

We didn’t just lose a pet. We lost unconditional love. Our Goldens gave us emotional responses that were uninhibited by concern for how their expression appeared to others. They did not judge insecurity or imperfection. They were all-accepting in ways few humans can achieve.

 

In many ways, Jocelyn lost a confidante. Silver allowed Jocelyn to express parts of herself that she never let friends see. During a period of upheaval and trauma, Silver provided Jocelyn with security, stability and comfort. Her neck was a safe place to shed tears.

 

Our Goldens were gifts from God. Creatures made in the Creator’s image and in many ways, reflective of the unconditional love and grace of God. Don't tell my pastoral superiors, but I believe all dogs go to heaven. We were guarded in talking about pet grief. Now, we share our gratitude for the love we experienced and a listening ear for those going  through a similar grief.

 

How about you?  Has your world been rocked by the death of a four-legged family member?  Lean into the grief. Reach out for comfort. Bob.pb.jones@gmail.com


 I write to grow hope, inspire people to be real, forge an authentic faith in Jesus, and discover their life purpose.

Please follow my writing at REVwords.com

I would love to hear from you.

18 comments:

  1. Oh, Bob, you are going to get so many comments on this post. First of all, my condolences on the losses of your three beautiful goldies. I can appreciate why you wouldn't get another puppy after three consecutive exact diagnoses and the heart-hurts you've endured. Jann Arden also recently lost her dog, Midi, and she attests with you that the pain of that loss is more severe than some of our human pains, including the pain of losing her beloved mother.

    On September 15th, our family had to say goodbye to our 10-year-old Boston Terrier. He had been diagnosed with a heart issue about a year ago and we had been able to buy almost a year of time with him through medications. At last, however, his condition had caught up with him. The vet told us that things were only going to get worse for him, that she didn't think he should have to go through that, and that it was absolutely the kind and appropriate thing to do for him (euthanasia). Even though we understood all that, it wasn't easy to let him go; it was the hardest thing in the world. And of course, we are still grieving our loss, missing our boy. I did find that I got a lot of support from Facebook friends, work colleagues, neighbours, etc. We got a few sympathy cards, someone made a donation to Boston Terrier Rescue Canada, a neighbour Jazz loved dropped off a gnawed tennis ball that he would always play with at their house. We were so touched by everyone who showed loving care. Perhaps people are beginning to understand how significant the death of a pet is to a person.

    Before we knew we were saying goodbye to Jazz, my husband and I had both said we wouldn't get another dog. We have enough on our plates with eldercare, young adult prodigal children, work, etc. We want to travel when we are free. But to be honest, I am praying God will move on my husband's heart to consider another Bostie so we can once again have a little bundle of furry joy. A cute face at the window, watching for our comings and goings, a creature running to the top of the stairs to welcome us home as we return, that unconditional love only a dog can offer, "man's best friend." And we agree with you - our dogs go to heaven and are waiting for us there!

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    1. Hi Susan. So, you brought tears to me eyes with your story about Jazz. I've had to retype this a couple of times because I couldn't see the keys clearly. Thank you for sharing your story and your prayer for another dog who will become like family. God has an eye on that fortunate puppy.

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    2. Aw, I'm touched that Jazz's story moved you, Bob. Thank you for telling me. That means a lot. I'll let you know about the puppy as God permits.

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  2. Bob, the title of your post couldn't be more appropriate. Yes, it is the end of the world as we know it when we lose a beloved dog on this side of heaven.

    I'm so sorry your time with your dog was cut short. I agree that all dogs go to Paradise. Often I daydream of being greeted by my dogs and cats that left earth ahead of me.

    Grief over the death of a pet grips our hearts like no other grief.

    I penned these words years ago after my little one died:

    But the tears fall

    and flow like a river

    as I long to ride these rapids

    after the one I lost

    and bring him back to this side …

    this shore of life that we shared.

    Blessings of God's comfort as your family grieves - Wendy Mac 🐾

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    1. Thank you for sharing your poem, Wendy. I plan to write something in memory of my boy too. They sure do work their way into our hearts, don't they?

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  3. Thank you, Wendy. Empathy is unlike any other kind of comfort. A beautiful poem from your heart.

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  4. First let me say that I am not an animal person. But I can still relate to this story. We did have a family pet when my children were younger. He was a gorgeous and majestic animal - a malamute/one quarter wolf cross. He was huge and he was number two in our 'pack'. (He recognized my husband as alpha male, but in his mind he was second!) Wolfgang protected the children from everyone (human or otherwise) by placing himself in front of them and standing guard until we gave the okay.
    One summer when we were going on vacation, we stopped at a pull out to let him stretch his legs and go pee. It was beside a small bridge. We were ready to leave and my husband called him, but instead of coming directly to us, he decided to come up the other way and cross the highway. He was hit head on by a van in front of all of us, including my four kids. To say we were devastated is an understatement.
    A nearby farmer was gracious and allowed us to bury Wolfgang in his yard. We continued on our 'holiday' but it was really hard to put on a brave face. We had to keep explaining our melancholy and often people would say, "He was only a dog," or "At least it wasn't one of the children." Duh! Of course that would have been ten times more devastating, but still, we were grieving. The image of black and white fur flying through the air has never left me.
    We did not get another dog. At first it seemed too painful and then it just wasn't convenient. But I try to be sensitive to those who love their pets like family, because in many ways, they are.

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    1. Oh, Tracy. I feel your heartache. Can't imagine the depth of despair that day for you and your family. Thank you for leaning in. I am sure as other people ready your story it will resonate with them as well.

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    2. I'm so sorry for the way your family lost your Wolfgang, Tracy. I can't imagine witnessing something like that or not having the opportunity to say goodbye to my pet. Of course you were melancholic! And boy can people say dumb things :(

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    3. Oh Tracy, your story gave me chills. I watched a precious dog get run over when I lived in Taiwan. It was devastating. A missionary neighbour retrieved her and buried her under his mango tree.

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  5. I totally understand both the grief and the stupid comments. My rabbits were like my children to me. They gave me so much quiet as we lay on the kitchen floor together. They did such happy dances when they knew their bowls of pellets or pumpkin came. People made such awful comments when my long-eared friends died or I had to put them down. I've had to give up having rabbits because vet care in the country is so hard to get. I lost my cat, Athena, to a dog attack in July. It's why I never let cats roam outside. I miss her Kitty 500 races and her kneading my arm under the blankets. I miss her coming into the bathroom for a drink from the tub faucet. I miss her sleeping at the foot of my bed or on the couch like a furry couch pillow. I miss tossing treats and watching her romp after each one.I might adopt a kitten but he'll never replace my Athena.

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    1. I'm so sorry for the traumatic way you lost your Athena, Bruce. I understand how you miss her. That is the way we miss our Jazz.

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  6. A man who cares for pets is a good man. You've been through a lot of loss, Bruce. I hope you'll be able to get a kitten. That would be a fortunate kitten.

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  7. Wow, Bob! Your post rocked me. I am an unashamed life-long animal lover. Bob, this post hits me on a deep personal level. I can relate to the cancer journey with your Jocelyn, My wife is a two time cancer survivor. I can also relate to your love for your dogs, who were more than just dogs. I can remember few years in my life without a dog or a cat. I can remember each of them because I loved them with deep love. Terry and I love having our poodle, Charlie, in our lives. He is seven years of fun, play, and cuddles. Prior to Charlie we went a whole year without having one of God's beautiful creatures in our home. Our border collie, Misty, and our poodle, Angus, died a few months after each other. Oh man, the sleepless nights for weeks after their deaths. I couldn't put away their dishes and toys for months. We would goo over to our son's place to play with and hug his dogs. Now with Charlie we spend as much time as we can with this intuitive snuggle bug. Forgive me, brother, I find myself on a bit of a ramble. I am going to read your post again. It's the least I can do as I enjoy what your words have done for me. You help me recall the animals in my life I have loved, and still love.

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    1. I'm sorry for your losses, too, Alan. It's been almost a month now since we said goodbye to Jazz. We have put some of his things away and given our son a few treasured items that he wanted, but Jazz's leashes, etc. are still hanging by the front door and we still have his treats in our coat pockets :( I hope it won't be longer than a year before we get another Bostie, but this was my husband's first dog and he isn't near ready for the idea to take root in his heart.

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  8. Hi Allan. Thank you so much for sharing your so very personal grief and emotions. I know other grieving pet lovers can find comfort in knowing the grief of others is as deep as theirs.

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  9. Thanks for sharing your touching story, Bob. You touched wonderful memories of our pets. They fill our lives with joy and unconditional love, and losing them is not easy. For me, it was difficult losing especially Ebony the cat who walked alongside us like a miniature black lab and accompanied us wherever we went--even jogging up the road with me.

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  10. Thank you, Sandi for sharing precious memories of Ebony. I can imagine the two joggers together, uphill.

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