Tears welled up in my eyes as I saw her empty dish. No longer will I feel her wet nose on my hand; a wakeup call in the morning. No longer would she be at the door with her tail wagging when I come home. Earlier this week, in what we know to be an act of kindness, so that she did not have to suffer in the end, we had to say goodbye to our dog Shady.
She came into our lives as a puppy, just a few weeks old and immediately stole our hearts. For almost 11 years she has been a great source of joy in our home; a constant during a these past years of change. She made the trip cross-country six years ago as we moved into the South Okanagan valley, to our current home where she loved to roam in the orchards around us. Today, there is this deep sadness; she is no longer with us.
Some might think, 'it's just a dog, get over it,' but for those who have a had a pet, especially one who has shared our lives for a longer season, you understand they really do become part of the family. As I've reflected on just how blessed we were to have this beautiful Black Lab in our home, I've also come understand she has taught me some wise lessons on living.
Every day Shady would greet me, with a sparkle in her eyes and her tail wagging. If one of us had been away for a time, she would sometimes be so excited upon our return she would race around in circles, run down the hall, bounce off the bed and come back to do it all over again--she was always happy to see us!
As I thought about this, I wondered how many times I have been 'busy' or pre-occupied and barely noticed when Janice or one of the kids comes into the house. I'm not saying we need to run around and bounce off the bed! but shouldn't the delight factor always be high when we are in the presence of those we love? In our homes and churches there ought to be great joy in being with one another.
We're funny as human beings; we sometimes get sideways with each other, words go unspoken, time passes and unintentionally we wound the ones we ought to care about the most. Knowing that the day will come when our time will end here on earth or when one we care about is taken from us, ought to cause us to determine to love deeply, to let go of the little things that so easily cause us to move away from one another and to enjoy the gift of each day we get to spend with the one's we love.
One of the pictures I will forever hold in my mind is that of Shady sitting, waiting for a treat or for dinner to be served! In her eyes I could see a sense of gratitude for what she was receiving. She appreciated even the smallest act of kindness, a gentle scratch behind her ear, the last piece of a crust of toast, a fresh bowl of water.
We have been so blessed! There ought to be in all of us a deep sense of gratitude for the blessings we have received from others and from our heavenly Father. The Psalmist exhorts God's people to give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. (Psalm 107:8)
One consolation I have these days is that Shady was much loved dog. Every day of her life we cared for her, providing what she needed not out of duty but out of love. In the end, I cradled her head as she 'fell asleep' and the last voice she heard was me telling her what wonderful dog she has been, how much she was loved and 'it's okay, just rest now'.
Isn't that what we want for those we love; for them to know they are loved and to hear the words that every human being longs to hear, words of praise and honor and love. I haven't always served by wife and kids as I ought to as husband and dad but I trust they know how deeply I love them, even in my imperfections. The truth of Scritpure is so simple, yet so profound: love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)
Over the years I have been asked, "will there be dogs in heaven?" I've always answered the same way: the Bible teaches that God delights in His creation; He delights in the animals He created. And from what I know about heaven, I just can't imagine there not being animals in heaven. And knowing how good our God is, it wouldn't suprise me if (I'd use the name of the owner's dog / pet who was asking the question)...was waiting for us when we get to heaven. I've seen a child's eyes light up at the thought of such a picture.
Knowing how good and graciouis my God is and how wonderful heaven will be, it will not surprise me when I get to heaven if Shady is there to greet me!