I Wasn’t Expecting to Dig a Grave Yesterday

Things will not always be this way.

I wasn’t expecting to dig a grave yesterday.

Our eldest dog, Duncan, an 11-year-old Beagapoo (Beagle+Poodle), put his head down between his fluffy black paws and slowly closed his eyes for the last time. He was the sweetest, most well-tempered, loving family dog I’ve ever known.

Ann Ferris was home from Chattanooga last weekend for Easter and got to give him some great snuggles (and get some in return). Duncan loved to be close to his people. It didn’t take long to discover that physical touch was his love language.

I’m grateful that Ann Ferris was with us via FaceTime when we gave thanks to God for the gift of Duncan and laid him in the ground by our creek next to our first dog, Gracie, who died four years ago.

I knew something was wrong as Duncan walked back into the house after being let out for his business yesterday. His breathing was much more labored than usual. Even so, he looked up at me—human and dog eyes in full contact—and wagged his tail.

He was happy to see me. In a strange, almost surreal way, I felt his happiness.

But his heart was letting him down.

Maybe Duncan just needed oxygen. We didn’t know what else to do but take him to the vet. Schaeffer rode with me, sitting in the back seat, stroking his back.

As I handed him to the vet, I kissed Duncan on the nose and said, “I love you, Dunc.”

I didn’t realize with those final words he would pass just minutes later.

We are thankful Duncan waited until he had seen us all in the morning. It would have been easier for him to pass in his sleep during the night. But I think he fought through it and waited. He wanted to say goodbye in person.

I have wept harder over his death than I have wept in a long time. And the waves of emotion continue to roll.

What is it about pet relationships that is so powerful? Why does loss hurt so badly? Almost a physical pain. Even the loss of a dog.

I guess they really do become part of the family. Even in our imperfections, they treat us with grace and love us unconditionally—the way we wish humans would love us.

Our remaining pup, a Terrier/Chihuahua mix we found huddled under a car in our cul-de-sac almost 10 years ago is named Butter. Her full name is Reeces Buttercup Caston—Butter for short. When we brought Duncan home from the vet, she sniffed Duncan’s lifeless body as he lay in a box on our kitchen floor.

I think she knew. Her best friend had died. It would no longer be “them.” I wonder if she is feeling what humans call loneliness.

I know this. If dogs could cry, Butter would, as she is unusually lethargic today. I am, too.

No Caston was ready to say goodbye to our “Dunky-dunk.”

Man, I am so sad.

I realize no one can enter the emotion of grief over the loss of a pet like the actual pet owner. So, I don’t expect you to feel my acute sadness.

But I know you have your own sadness. It comes in many forms and degrees of intensity. Compared to other kinds of loss, grieving over a pet seems kind of trivial. But it isn’t. It reveals something deep in the human soul—a longing for the permanence of uninterrupted joy.

I suppose the pain of loss is a reminder of the world in which we live. It isn’t supposed to be this way.

I want you to know that, for those who are in Christ Jesus, it will not always be this way.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Maybe you need to hear that today.

I sure do.

Thank you, Duncan, for being our faithful friend. You loved us well and we will always love you.