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Mourning pets & loving well

Over the years we've had the following live at our country home:  Two guinea pigs Three rabbits About seven dogs About 18 cats Two pigmy goats Two horses Six chickens Six ducks Those were just the tame ones. We have about a dozen wild turkeys. A coyote recently…
By Seth Barnes

Over the years we've had the following live at our country home: 

Two guinea pigs

Three rabbits

About seven dogs

About 18 cats

Two pigmy goats

Two horses

Six chickens

Six ducks

Those were just the tame ones. We have about a dozen wild turkeys. A coyote recently walked across our back lawn. We have the odd fox and lots of deer. Skunks and possums and racoons take up residence in our garage on occasion.

We Barneses love animals. Especially me, Emily and Estie*. We take care of them and pet them and talk to them. They become honorary members of our family. When the kids were younger, they were forever taking in pets. Now that they're grown, we've got just two cats and two dogs left. Of course Asha (that's her above – isn't she the cutest thing?) rules the roost.

But being an animal around our place can be tough. It's a Darwinian environment. Once we came home from church and found that some dogs or coyotes had ravaged our chickens and ducks. Most were dead or dying. One hen had run for her life to the garage and thereafter took up residence there, laying an egg a day on one of the shelves as compensation for her new accommodations.

The problem with loving anything, especially something as fragile as a pet, is that you risk losing what you love. We've mourned more pets here. We've had pet tragedies by the score. And each time we grieved the pet's passing. For a day, maybe, we considered whether we could love again. God has equipped us with tender hearts it seems.

But always another pet appeared and always we opened our hearts to love it.

Loving and losing our pets taught us something about life. I've lost friends. I've had my heart broken more times than I can count. But always I choose to love again. Yes, there's the temptation to guard my heart – to shut it down for the season and protect it. But maybe all those pets helped prepare me for the rigors of real life. My heart has a resiliency now.

You can't experience real love without opening yourself up to real loss. The two go hand-in-hand. I've learned to love well and to grieve well. My children and their pets have taught me that there's no better way to live.

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*It's Estie's birthday today & Emily's graduation Friday – please join me in loving them well as they celebrate.

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