Audio length: 13:12 minutes
I had to put one of my dogs to sleep. He was young, healthy but had been abused. He started biting visitors to our home. I was confronted with the question, "What does love demand?" When our pets die, or we have to kill them, what do we tell our kids? What do we do for closure? Do our pets go to heaven?
The accompanying blog post at http://pithlessthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/06/all-dogs-go-to-heaven.html
I knew it was inevitable even when we let the veterinarian talk us out of it. I lived with Duke, she didn’t. “He was fine with our male staff”, she said, “I think that is a good sign he is trainable.” Yes, he was fine with people who deal with skittish animals for a living. I see him with people who are afraid of large barking dogs. I see him lunge at people who he perceives as invading our home. I see him cower and growl at people who live here. But we hoped against hope. We talked to the trainer. She said six home visits and we’d still have to board him if we ever had our grandkids visit, just to be safe. (What about other people’s kids? I thought.) I scoured the internet for “Dog Whisperer” tips and tricks. Abused dogs who fear bite are basically incurable, even with the best help a re-trained dog can never be fully trusted. Don’t give them to a shelter and pass your problem on to someone else, they all said.
Today we took Duke back to the vet. The one we first saw refused to do the euthanasia. Another one did it for us. He told us of a childhood friend who had half her face bitten off by a Saint Bernard because she reached for its bone. He said this is the hardest decision to make with a pet, but the right one. We thanked him.
I sat on the floor with Duke, my arm around him. He licked my hand as I petted him. I remembered the first year after we brought him home from the dog pound. He would not come near me. Every inch he got closer over the months was a victory of trust, love, gentleness and patience with him. It almost brought me to tears the day he jumped up on the couch with me, laid his head in my lap and let me pet him as he dozed off.
Today he was in a strange place. His tail was down, between his legs. His head was down and his back haunches quivered. He hung close to us. I got down on the floor and he came up and sat next to me. I was his comforter, not his feared abuser. I put my arm around him and scratched behind his ears as the vet inserted the needle with a sedative into his front leg. Duke looked up at me then slumped down and laid his head in my lap. The vet inserted the next needle. As I petted him, Duke went to sleep.
We took him home and buried him. I read Psalm 103/4. “O that sinners would be consumed from the earth and that the wicked be no more”. O that the person who beat this dog would be consumed. O that the sorrow and anger I have at the fallen cosmos be consumed by the love of God. O that the damage I have done in this world be consumed by forgiveness and mercy. O that all things will be well, O that all will be well.
Rest in peace, Dukie. Be at peace. Some day, all of us will be well. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. Even in dogs.