Last Friday, we made the difficult decision to euthanize our older, failing dog, Doodle. Doodle was a beloved part of our family since he was a puppy, almost fifteen years ago. Also on Friday, I posted a picture of Doodle on Facebook, announcing our loss.The response from my Facebook friends was breathtaking, far more respondents than for say, my birthday. Thank you to everyone who posted comments, responded to the post with an emoji, or simply sent compassionate thoughts and/or prayers our way.
The death of a pet deeply strikes a chord with people. Many friends posted comments, sharing their own painful stories of losing a pet. Others simply shared heartfelt sympathies, but I could sense the unspoken pain of loss in my friends’ comments. Why do people continue to acquire and care for their furry children in spite of the pain resulting from their inevitable deaths? It’s simple: the joy and love received during the life of these animals far exceed the pain of loss.
I don’t really know if a dog is actually capable of love, as we humans understand the concept. Certainly, dogs (and some cats) are capable of loyal devotion similar to love. Consider the famous words of the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians in his well-known love chapter (1 Cor. 13). Does the Godly love that Paul describes also apply to the devotion shown by dogs? In part, the passage: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” To me, the preceding passage describes pretty well how a dog loves a non-abusive owner. No wonder we become so attached to our pets. The inter-species bond we share is powerful.
If only people loved as well as dogs! I’m struck by the number of people of my generation who are divorced or widowed and have given up on love. We humans love each other so imperfectly, because we are so imperfect. We are self-centered and typically fail to love with the kind of love that Paul describes above. It’s hard to love when a lifetime of disappointment and bitterness have given one a heart of stone.
Fortunately, we have a God in the business of helping us become more loving people, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). Perhaps we could start by loving each other in the way Fido loves – except without jumping up on each other and licking each other’s faces.