If you have followed my blog for while (thank you!), you may recall that I’ve written a few times about things I’ve learned from my two dogs, insights that have contributed to my walk with the Lord. Now my husband and I are facing the reality that our beloved Scooter is in his final season of life. He’s blind and nearly deaf and struggling to navigate through his days. You dog parents can empathize, I’m sure. Meanwhile, the other pup, Maggie, who was an emotional wreck when we first rescued her from the streets, has become a calmer, sweeter, more cooperative family member.
In Part 1 I shared that when we first brought Maggie home, it seemed like Scooter (who was in late but still robust middle age at the time) rolled his eyes but tolerated Maggie’s silly immaturity and reactivity. Now the tables have turned. Maggie seems to understand and tolerate that her big brother needs extra love and care. She doesn’t object so much at having to share our attention. She accompanies him when he is wandering blindly around the yard.
Watching Maggie reminds me of my mother’s last year of life, when my kids just knew, without being told, that we would be showing up to visit this dear, demented old woman as often as we could. They understood that this is what we do when family members need us. I’ve never been prouder of them, and I feel a new pride and appreciation for Maggie, too.
I’ve called this the final chapter in the “Two Doggies” series because we will probably be a one-dog family for a while after Scooter passes. All of us will have to mourn the loss of such a wonderful friend for a time. And even then, Maggie deserves the chance to experience being an only dog–our greeter-watcher-cuddler-in-chief. In the meantime, this season with Scooter has caused me to reflect more deeply upon the brevity and preciousness of life.
This is not a depressive kind of reflection. There is sadness, of course, but it is balanced by love, tenderness, vulnerability, and above all, thankfulness. I’m learning to be more patient and loving (and less selfish!) about caring for my geriatric dog. I pray that I’ll care well for other loved ones who might need me in the future. I’m moved with tender memories of how much Scooter has added to our family, with his show-dog gait, his glorious eyebrows, his spontaneous posing for photo portraits, his singing when we are singing, his quiet company when we are quiet. I’ve always felt that dogs are one of God’s finest gifts to us, and this one has been an irreplaceable treasure.
But my tender, thankful thoughts travel far beyond. I’m so thankful to God for the life he has given me. I’m thankful to be part of his great big spiritual family. Babies are being born, kids are being raised, adults are working hard, old folks are leaving, entering into their reward. All of us are sojourners here, endeavoring to make the most of whatever number of days God has ordained for each of us. We are here to support one another through good times and hard times.
Of course, Scripture comes to life in this train of thought.
Ecclesiastes, which expresses a very dim view of the human propensity for “chasing after the wind,” also very simply expresses the ultimate priority in being human. Here is a portion of Ecclesiastes 12 from the Passion translation:
Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young, Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes, before your vision dims and the world blurs and the winter years keep you close to the fire. In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen. The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away. You are wakened now by bird-song. Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past. Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white, adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest, while your friends make plans for your funeral.
Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over. Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from. The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.
Jolly fellow, this Teacher. He doesn’t pull any punches about the losses that come when our bodies start to wear out. But look at the first sentence, the main point. Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young.
We dare not wait until we have career and family all figured out, or have achieved whatever else we striving to achieve, or have a certain amount of money in the bank. If we acknowledge, honor, and enjoy our Creator while still young, whatever happens from there is a bonus. I write this from my own experience.
When we reach a point of incapacity, we need not feel fear or regret. God has been with us throughout the journey and will carry us through the experience of old age and death as well.
I would add to this biblical truth that we ought to honor and enjoy God’s creation also, as he does. We ought to enjoy a great meal with friends, or a walk through the forest, or watching the sunrise from a mountain top or a sunset from the seashore. We are made to respond in excited awe at a baby’s first cry or her first steps. We are created to cry at the sound of a violin played beautifully, when we are overcome with the glory of the Holy Spirit, or when we witness a fellow traveler perform a heroic act of love.
When we bear children, we know that they will break our hearts many times and then leave us, but we have children anyway. And we continue to allow ourselves to love our pets, knowing that we will probably outlive them and have to say goodbye. All these experiences, painful and joyous, demonstrate that we are created in God’s image. After all, he is the one who loves completely and sacrificially, knowing that we’ll all break his heart at some point. He tells us that we are still worth it. Life is still worth it.
Thank you Scooter and Maggie, and all the other great pups that have been part of our story. You have taught me much.