This morning our dog died. Zooey (pronounced “Zoey”). Zooey became suddenly very sick on Thursday night after she went outside to go pee. She became lethargic. She wouldn’t eat. She had trouble lying down, but when she finally was able to lay on her blanket, she wouldn’t move for hours.
The long and short of it is that she had some bad chicken, got salmonella poisoning which wreaked havoc on her digestive system and her organs. She became weaker and weaker. Until she had to be carried.
This morning, thinking this might be “it,” I took her for one last trip around our house so our kids could pet her one final time and my wife could say good-bye.
I took Zooey outside and she couldn’t negotiate the stairs. She collapsed and tumbled down the steps. My wife and I loaded her into the car and I took her to the vet.
40 minutes later she was given a needle. She died sniffing my hand while I rubbed her ears, and thanked her for all she had done for our family. But most of all I thanked her for her faithfulness, her love, her generosity, and her gentleness, before she softly slipped into eternity.
She leaves behind a lifetime of memories.
I’ll remember our walks in Point Pleasant Park in Halifax; her and I, “daddy-doggy day” we called it. I’ll remember how she parked herself under the crib when Sophia was born. Then again when we brought Naomi home.
I’ll remember when Naomi climbed on her head and pulled her whiskers and she didn’t react. She just looked at me as if to say, “Can you do something about this?” I’ll remember how she waited under the kids’ chairs for the inevitable food to drop.
But most of all I’ll remember how much we loved her and how much she loved us. She was part of the family. That sounds like a cliché, but to any pet owner, that’s God’s honest truth.
My grief reminds me that real life is lived in small worlds. A rub begin the ears. A run in the park. A snuggle on the bed. That’s the important stuff. That’s not just the cream, that’s the coffee.
There are greater tragedies haunting the world right now, people in deeper pain than a well-fed, middle class, white boy who just lost his dog; victims of the London bombings, children dying of hunger and preventable disease, young people with cancer, old people with Alzheimer’s, car accidents, natural disasters, the list goes on and on.
But nonetheless, today, I grieve. She's the good Zo, the best Zo, the only Zo, the true Zo. That was my mantra to her.
I tell people at funerals that the pain and grief they feel is in direct proportion to the quality of the relationship that has been lost. But today I find no solace in those words. The words ring true, but, sadly, truth is not comfort.
I wonder if death is God’s way of showing us how wonderful life is. I wonder if that’s why Jesus’ death was such a big deal, and why his resurrection is an even bigger deal. Because life – the power of God’s creative love – is why the world was created. Death thwarts God’s plan for the world.
Maybe that’s why my heart aches, even for a dog, because the joy she gave us, the love she taught us, and the friendship she shared with us are echoes of the love that God has for the world.
But there will be a day when Zooey will be only a fond memory. The pain will disappear into a few scattered pictures in a photo album and tender reminiscing with my family and friends, “Do you remember when Zooey…?”
But not today. Today I miss my dog.