Thanks for these words, Seth. Our family is grieving the loss of 2 pets in the last 2 weeks—a kitten that had just been given to Jase (our 9 year old) and our almost 13 year old English Cream Golden Retriever. Needless to say, this has been a rough two week span here for Team Sublett. But we’ve had the chance to weep and tell stories, to remember good times and celebrate. It’s given us the chance to teach our kids how to grieve as people who hope, people who are looking for resurrection, people who know that this life is not the end all/be all. So we find comfort and solace in the Lord, and remember that this life is fleeting. We need to number our days and live with the end in mind.
Pets Help Us to Grieve
Our pets give us the chance to practice losing. As our kids grew, hamster burials gave way to dog funerals in our home. The funerals didn’t get any easier, but the practice was good. Pets aid in our mourning.
Animals suffer too. We see videos of elephants mourning their losses. All creation groans on this side of revelation. Does the groan come from the gap we sense between what is and what will be? Is it the groan of birthing pains?
Think of the different things about what you loved that you have at some point lost. Not just a person, but the quiet thrills of discovering new things about that person. And not just your health, but your ability to run long distances or throw frisbees. Or your hope, that you now find subtly replaced by cynicism that feels like a rock in your shoe.
That loss needs attention. And because of that, often, grief is irrepressible, even if it may need help if it is to surface. Grief almost always finds its way to daylight, even if in a dysfunctional way.
Bodies aging requires grieving for the spirit to keep up. God designed us so that we are constantly losing parts of ourselves. We slough off skin daily, giving us the opportunity to transition by degrees to a spiritual realm that stands on tiptoes waiting to receive us.
God sees our lives and losses and wants to help us. Yes, it’s hard to process and easier to bury. So God gives us pets who have the gift of burying and digging up stuff. And they can help us to do it too.
Because their lives are so much shorter than ours, we pet owners get to practice mourning them over and over. I’ve owned four dogs. My dog Asha is 14 now. She still has enough of a spark that she wants to play (usually about 5 pm). Daily she wags her tail and looks at me. Yet I know at best we’ve got a year or so more before we lose her and I get to grieve again.
We need to grieve the lack of grieving. We are losing so much – losses that hurt when touched. But God gives us little prompts like the dogs and cats that have shared so much of our lives with us to show us how much pets aid in our mourning. I think it’s his way of touching us when the humans in our lives, with all of their issues, fail to show up with the hug we need.
Amen, Stacy. I’m sorry for your loss. No question but that Asha helps me to number my days.
I have had 11 dogs in my life. Most live 14-16 years. I just had to let my Prince cross the rainbow bridge on 9/5/23. I was so sad and I could not shake it. So, I found another German Shepherd rescue and drove 2 hours to pick him up. He is 3-4 years old. He has never had a home, from what we know. He came in a transport from Houston. I have had him just over a month. I look forward to the weekend, when I can give him my full attention. He is darling and totally different than Prince but, he is helping me and I am grateful for him. God is good.
Thanks for this story, Shelley. I read it and let out a loud sigh. Karen heard me from the other room and said, “Are you OK?” And I thought, “why did I sigh like that just now?” And I guess I just feel so deeply for those who are orphaned and abandoned. And your dog’s story of being 3 yrs old and never having had a home just connected with that sense of being overwhelmed by so much need in the world. I think it’s the same feeling Jesus had when we read about him in Matthew 9 seeing the crowds as sheep without a shepherd. Probably most of us live our lives that way – like sheep without a shepherd.
I love your heart made manifest in your stories my 44 year friend.