Our dog, Jack, passed away a few days ago. He was sick for a very long time before he passed and so his death comes with more of a sigh of relief than with sadness. I am so glad that he is no longer suffering. He loved life and was strong and courageous until the very end, he did not shirk his duty ever….even on the day before he died he sat outside and “kept watch” for danger as the children played in the backyard.
I remember when we first received Jack, I say “received” because we did not search him out, we were not even thinking about getting a dog at that time. But there he was, in the arms of our neighbor who was standing on our doorstep. She said she had found him wandering up and down the road after she got off work and she herself already had two dogs, “….and he’s gonna be a big ‘un!” she said, while looking down at his already huge paws. “If y’all don’t want him then I’m going to take him down to the humane society tomorrow.” I couldn’t let her do that, who knows if he’d make it out alive…..sure, we’ll take him 🙂
I sometimes wonder how different Jack’s life might of turned out had she taken him to the humane society….would he still be alive right now?
When we received Jack we were living in our house in town, with a 1/4 acre backyard, but he was a big dog….he definitely had german shepherd in him and pit bull, those two breeds were easily identifiable….and while we let him run as often as we could I always felt bad for him not having more room to roam. We didn’t own a car at that time and lived on a very busy one lane road which was treacherous to walk along…that road took the life of Tony, our first family cat.
But 3 years after we received Jack we moved here to where we are now, with 9 acres and miles upon miles of woods beyond that, and he got to RUN! I love watching dogs run, the sheer speed and simple beauty of an innate love of life! It never fails to make me smile 😀
About 6 months after our move is when he started getting sick, he would be sick for a week or so and then get better and be well for a few months and then get sick again….off and on for almost 3 years….each time spending more time sick and less time well. We didn’t know what was wrong and even if we did know there is not much that could be done, there is no money available for making a dog well again, it’s just that simple. Vets are expensive.
He was 6 years old when he died and I will never forget him. He loved life so much, he loved being with his humans….he was everything that every dog aspires to be…loyal, trustworthy, intelligent, strong, obedient and eager to learn, an excellent guard dog and farm dog, wonderful with the children….he did not deserve such an early death. But such is life on this planet…those who deserve it the most often get it cut the shortest…
More than anything in this life, it is Jack who has taught me to “never give up”….that is the lesson that I will take from his time here. Even when he was so skinny and could barely breath and had blood pouring from his nose he would still join us on a hike in the woods as if nothing was wrong. Such tenacity of will and such was the love of life that was in him!
Even just mere hours before he died, I went in the shed to check on him knowing that his time was close….I petted him, gliding my hands soothingly across his frail body….he wagged his tail and licked my hand as if to comfort me.
He looked at me with his kind warm brown eyes as if to say “why are you crying? everything will be ok, it’s alright” and I would say “no it’s not alright Jack, you are dying”…”yes, but it’s supposed to happen this way” his eyes said “this is my job, the reason I was sent to you.” And now I understand what he meant, it was the last puzzle piece….the final string cut…the renting of the heart into two…broken. In pain lies peace, in suffering there is true life….and while most seek all their lives to be comfortable and at peace, it is found only in the last place they would ever think to look…in their pain, in their suffering, in their sadness…
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
The purpose of the death, this continuous cycle of death, where everything dies and everything lives off the death of something else, is to show us that although death always follows life, life can come from death….through the death of one, (THE ONE, who is Jesus Christ) life is given to many…
I see this when I butcher a chicken or a goat, or when I kill a plant in my garden and eat it for lunch…or when I kill a bug so that it doesn’t eat that plant before I do. And even the death of pets…Tony, our first family cat…or Bunnini, our pet bunny that died two years ago…and now Jack….all put in our lives to teach us about life and about love. And we must be willing to hear them, willing to listen….in order that their life and their sacrifice not be in vain.
Our cat, Gizmo, is heavily pregnant and due to give birth any day now…this will be her fourth litter and every litter before has died…we don’t know why, but such is life…such is death. In a few weeks my goats will begin kidding…some will become meat for us, others will be raised and sold for profit….such is life, and such is death. And as I sit here typing I can hear the sing-song peeping of little bird life in a box in the corner of my kitchen…all of those birds will be eaten at some point, the roosters will go first and then the hens after they have lived a useful life as a giver of eggs….such is life, such is death.
The lesson to be learned is this: do not shrink from either…accepting death as normal and good and necessary frees us to live well….and living well frees us to die well, without fear. It’s both awful and beautiful….and such is the love and goodness of God 🙂