I CRIED EVERY DAY THIS WEEK.
I know that’s an odd thing to admit in a blog feature intended for people interested in the Bible.
I could have written about what the prophet Amos said to rich people 2,700 years ago. That’s where I am in paraphrasing the Casual English Bible.
But that’s not where I am today.
Today, I’m with my son.
Scene 1: Woods
We’re walking in the woods on a below-freezing morning with his 13-year-old black lab named Mosby. This place seems to have been her favorite walking trail since her first year of life, when she and her master lived at home with me and my wife.
Scene 2: Son’s house
I’m back at my son’s house now. His daughters, ages two and four, don’t grasp the gravity of the day.
“We’re saying goodbye to Mosby,” the four-year-old says. She’s smiling.
Scene 3: Couch
I’m sitting on my son’s couch now. Mosby climbs on my lap, like she used to do as a puppy. Since then, I’ve always let her do it. She’s too big to be a lap dog. But I never told her.
Mosby has about an hour to live.
Scene 4: Living room floor
I’m on the living room floor with her now, along with my son. We’re stroking her as she lies there between us.
I pull my stocking cap down over my forehead and shield my face with my right hand. I don’t want my four-year-old granddaughter to see my face.
Thirteen years ago I drove deep into Missouri with my son to pick out a puppy from a litter born on his birthday, August 27. On the ride home, the two of us sat with little Mosby in the back seat of our minivan. I filmed my son as he held her up, her face to his face—both of them sticking their tongues out at each other. Mosby started it.
Scene 5 : Last meal
My son cooks a T-bone steak for Mosby. His daughters picked it out last night. It was the biggest steak they could find. My son cuts it into small pieces.
I grab the camera and think I’m taping it. But I’m not. I’m not thinking quickly or clearly. I guess I’m feeling too much to think much.
It’s time to go.
Scene 6: Front door
I’m at the front door now. My son and his wife are getting ready to take Mosby to the vet. Dementia has left her aggressive in the evening and through the nights. She has nipped at each of the children, and my son has probably postponed this longer than he should have.
My son clicks on the leash. He raises his left hand to the side of his face, as though it could stop the flow.
One last time I go to the floor. On my knees I thank her for spending her life with us. But she’s eager to get outside and go for a ride.
Oh, the pity. She doesn’t know.
The hour has passed.
Scene 7: Front porch stoop
I’m sitting on the front stoop outside on this freezing day. I’m scanning the blue sky east to west. It’s scattered in clouds, none shaped like a dog.
Scene 8: Basement family room
Finally, I’m down in the basement family room, while my wife remains upstairs with the girls. I’m sitting on the couch crying, crying, crying.
I say to God,
“I’d like to know she still exists.
I’d like to know you’ve made room for her.
I’d like to see a sign when I open my eyes—a hint that she’s still there.”
My eyes remain closed, closed, closed.
I’m afraid to open them.
I’m afraid there will be nothing to see but the wall in front of me.
My son wakes me up.
I didn’t realize I fell asleep.
I told my son about the prayer.
He smiled and said, “So, God told you to keep your eyes closed for a while, instead.”
Yeah, I guess he did. Frankly, that sounds like something God would do.
I told my son that we look down on dogs as inferior, but that they are superior to humans in several important ways: their capacity for expressive love, enduring devotion, and instant forgiveness.
For as long as I’ve known Mosby, whenever I stepped into her life, she jumped up on me in excitement. My son told her not to, but she always did. And I always wanted her to.
She has trusted us throughout her life. She followed where we led. That’s her devotion.
What we did felt like a betrayal. Like an execution for the crime of having a disease.
But it was, I believe, the opposite.
We were protecting the children, first. But we were also treating Mosby with the only medicine we knew could end these 12-hour stretches of confusion and insanity. A dozen hours doomed to grow.
That was no easy solution. We all felt the full weight of taking a life entrusted to us, devoted to us, and in love with us.
Nor is there an easy solution for what remains of our lives, to be lived in the shadow of mere pictures and memories of Mosby.
We’ve lost her. It hurts. There is no lidocaine for that.
The Bible doesn’t help with assurance of dogs in heaven. There’s no resurrection of dead dogs in the theology of Paul.
As far as the Bible reveals, Mosby is dead as a dog.
But we don’t want her to be. Might that make a difference?
Might Mosby be important to God because she is so important to me that as I sit here typing this, I feel broken from the inside out?
The Bible is full of songs and poems written about the miseries of life.
I think I’ll take my cue from a song attributed to King David.
Dear people, trust God
Every time and all the time.
Tell him everything.
He’s on our side.
—Psalm 62:8, Casual English Bible
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David H Hagen
So sorry for your loss. I’ve recently had to take care of my beloved 15-year-old cat similarly. It was immensely painful, and I often have to remind myself that I did what was best for her, not me. I’ll be praying for peace for you and your family. God bless you!
Stephen M. Miller
Thank you, David. It is surely, tough. But I don’t want to play mind games to avoid thinking about it. I need to feel every bit of it. I owe that to Mosby. So many scenes to remember and feel and consider. Not just scenes from the final day, but from all the day and years before.
Such a heartbreaking story, Steve. You had me tearing up too.
Unfortunately the nature of love is that it demands we be vulnerable — and vulnerability often leads to heartache and pain.
Humans are capable of living a half dozen dog-lives. Not that the alternative would be better. But there’s something about losing a living creature that depends on you for everything and gives you only unconditional love that is truly devastating.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks, Steve. I would never have guessed how emotionally devastating it can be to loose a pet. But the word “pet” doesn’t feel right. It seems to diminish their role in our lives. They are our friends and our family. They are irreplaceable.
I’m so sorry for your family’s loss Stephen. God has chosen to take your “fur baby” Mosby home to heaven. At least that’s what I believe. I believe that all of our beloved pets will be waiting for us in heaven when we finally arrive there. I would also go as far as to say that our beloved pets are actually angels in disguise. They come into our lives for a reason and show us unconditional ❤️. I am praying for you and your wonderful family that God will give you peace and comfort.
Stephen M. Miller
Thank you CJ. If Mosby came as angel, she came with an appetite. She once snatched a roast off the counter and swallowed it before the cook could lift her jaw back up. Aside from that, she could have been a glimpse of heaven.