Putting Down the Dog

Some of our closest friends recently had to put down their long, long, long time canine family member, Buster. Buster was sweet, loved them and their kids, but Buster could no longer walk without great pain.
Some important contextual and philosophical side notes here:

  • I come from a small town farming community, and euthanizing aged and severely ill or injured animals is something I grew up with and believe to be quite humane and kind, in the grand scheme of things.
  • Even so, my friends who lean more toward the PETA-lovin’ end of the spectrum will be relieved to know that even the hardest core practical types generally see working farm animals and pets as functional members of the family, which means it is hard to say goodbye, no matter how severe or the injury.
  • Still, because we come from practical, responsible stock, and because these animals look to us for protection, provision, and they contribute in some way to our family; if we can no longer care for them in their illness, and the illness will do them more harm than life will do them good, most of the folks where I’m from will hesitate only slightly when these difficult decisions must be made. I’m pleased that we hesitate, it is a demonstration of our humane-ity; I’m encouraged that we act decisively, it is a responsibility we carry for being part of human-ity.
  • All this said, it seems that we all find it easier to meddle with improving life (e.g., physicians, surgeons, pharmaceuticals, etc.), than it is to meddle in taking life (e.g., euthanizers, executioners, prosecuting attorneys and ambulance-chasing lawyers, etc.)
  • Humans, in my understanding and belief, are set apart from all others in the animal kingdom, with a role that includes living in, caring for, and ruling over the natural world.  Accordingly, it is important to be clear here that my support of euthanasia for a dog or a horse is the absolute antithesis of my approach to handling human aging and debilitating illnesses.  Thankfully, I have never had another human ask me to take their own life, neither have I yet had the honor to serve and love another human who has altogether lost their mental capacity, memories, and awareness.  In that case, though the arguments for human euthanasia would likely seem humane to some degree, I’m fairly certain I would still make my home in the ‘protection of human life’ camp.  Playing God with humans’ lives just seems a bit presumptuous to me.

Now, back to my friends, their dog, and our kids …

Kristen was the one who passed on the sad news about Buster’s demise to our kids.  By the way, she did a great job of connecting with each child at a level that was appropriate for her or him.  Hallie was sad for her friends, but happy for Buster not to be hurting anymore.  Emmy, though very compassionate for her friends’ loss, persistently pursued a full-on piece-by-piece explanation of the medical process a veterinarian would use to euthanize a small animal.  Caed was somewhere in-between.

Yesterday, as we drove back home together, someone insisted that we take some time, again, to pray for our friends in their grieving.  This is a good thing to do, in my opinion; compassion can be encouraged but is quite difficult to teach outright.  So we prayed …

When we were finished, a number of conversations took place in the car all at once.  Caed asked something about the animal doctor using a needle, Emmy said something about not wanting to lose a pet, and Hallie complained about her bruised thigh which was sore from completing her fourth-year round of vaccinations this week.  Then, an uncomfortable moment of silence.  Hallie, whose processing time is stunningly brief, whines something about not wanting to take bad shots with needles, Caed audibly (but benignly) observes that Hallie just had to get a bunch of shots, and Emmy and Mommy jointly launch in to (and stumble over one another in making) an explanation that most shots, especially Hallie’s shots, are good shots that make us well, even though they hurt at the time.

Daddy, meanwhile, manages to not have a wreck on the strangely busy freeway (which, by the way, feels more and more like I-635 all the time).

The ten second blurting of questions, cries, and comforts ended abruptly and awkwardly in silence.

Hallie, with the beautiful clarity of a child, speaks the ideal:

“NO Kill!  No Shots! No Hurting or Getting Old. We don’t want sadness.”

Wow.  How true.  From the heart of a child comes a clear and simple articulation of our longing for heaven: ultimate peace, the end of all pain, eternally without loss.  Thanks, Buster, for your life, and for the beautiful way your death helped my children to clarify and move toward addressing their yearnings for the presence of God, a trust in and reliance upon Jesus who has redeemed us and sacrificially made a way, even through the pain of his own suffering and death.  Thanks, God, for writing your truth in the simple, childish, practical, and everyday moments of our lives.  We look forward to eternal bliss in your glorious presence.  Amen.

From an older writer than me:

1-5For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.

6-8That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.

9-10But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing. Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. Sooner or later we’ll all have to face God, regardless of our conditions. We will appear before Christ and take what’s coming to us as a result of our actions, either good or bad.

11-14That keeps us vigilant, you can be sure. It’s no light thing to know that we’ll all one day stand in that place of Judgment. That’s why we work urgently with everyone we meet to get them ready to face God. God alone knows how well we do this, but I hope you realize how much and deeply we care. We’re not saying this to make ourselves look good to you. We just thought it would make you feel good, proud even, that we’re on your side and not just nice to your face as so many people are. If I acted crazy, I did it for God; if I acted overly serious, I did it for you. Christ’s love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do.  14-15Our firm decision is to work from this focused center: One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

16-20Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.

21How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God. (2 Corinthians 5, The Message)

One Reply to “Putting Down the Dog”

  1. I love the way this article is written! While being funny, it shows our Lord God in so many ways. Dad should give out writing lessons… or keep using his gift to spread the Word of God. I kind of like the latter better.

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