We lost our dog yesterday. No, that’s not true. We didn’t lose her, she died. Dead, done, over, finished. And I am heartbroken. This morning when I let the other dogs in the house, first Carlos, then Ed, I waited for her. Just for a moment, but long enough to break my heart all over again. We’ve had her for 12 years, and she was part of the routine of our lives. There were 3, now there are 2.
The thing is, I have always felt a little guilty about grieving for my pets when they die. Sure, it’s a loss, and I do love them, but in the end, she was just a dog. Just a dog. I think about what that means. She was part of our family, but not like a child. I know people who have lost children, and I by no means would compare this to that. I am sad now, but I will get over it, unlike the mother that will grieve, and I mean really grieve, for that child that she lost 30 years ago. Yet, there is still this loss to deal with. But what have I lost?
It is said that dog is man's best friend, but for me, that’s not really true. My wife is my best friend. It is also said that dogs love us unconditionally, but I'm not sure that I believe that. They depend on us, and they need us. We are their pack, their family, but is it truly love? I don’t know. So what is this emptiness that I feel? What did she mean to me? What have all my dogs meant to me?
Over the years, I have struggled off and on with depression. Like so many others, I have experienced loneliness, hopelessness, isolation, the full gambit. And through those times, there is usually someone that I can turn to; my wife, a friend, a doctor, God. Usually. But sometimes, when the isolation is too great, the only one who I can feel has been my dog. Who else ALWAYS has the time to greet me when I walk in the door? Who else is ALWAYS happy to see me. Who else is ALWAYS available for a hug, and who else will ALWAYS let me lie down next to them, arrange them the way I want them, and let me bury my face in their furry neck and cry?
I don’t know if dogs go to heaven, but I like to think so. In fact, sometimes I think that if there aren’t dogs in heaven, I don’t want to go there. Maybe we won’t need them there. Maybe heaven is so fulfilling, we won’t need our dogs. But, I think that dogs are one of God’s gifts to us. He knows how hard life is, and He knows that we all need a little bit of fur to hold onto. So my vision, what I see when I think of heaven, is all of us staring up into the brilliant face of God…and at His feet, napping, snoring, licking themselves, are his dogs. Our dogs.