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Saying goodby to Abby

Abby, our lovable mutt, is reaching the end of the line. When we moved here in 1994, Estie went down to the pound and spotted Abby as a puppy. We have had a parade of animals through the Barnes home over the last 15 years: guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, cats, and goats. But Abby was t…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Abby, our lovable mutt, is reaching the end of the line. When we moved here in 1994, Estie went down to the pound and spotted Abby as a puppy. We have had a parade of animals through the Barnes home over the last 15 years: guinea pigs, rabbits, ducks, chickens, cats, and goats. But Abby was the family dog as our children grew up. She’s been the one constant and we have loved her.
Karen declared early on that Abby would be an outside-dog. This was appalling to me – I’m a dog lover. Dogs have always been family members. My first dog, Charger, a schnauzer/cocker mix, was the one consistent source of solace in a sometimes rough adolescence.  When I visit a friend’s house, I want to pet their dog and speak to him. The movie “Marley and Me” had me sniffling at the end.
But Abby lived outside, on the porch during summers, and in the garage in the winters. In her more nimble days, she loved to play in the yard with the kids. After the lawn was freshly mowed, we’d pick up clumps of grass and she would charge them, leaping into the air to grab the grass in her mouth. She loved to race around. When Whimsy arrived later in life, the two of them were a canine Mutt and Jeff, perpetually entertaining us with their wrestling matches.
When we’d go away on a family vacation, we never put Abby in a kennel – she was left to guard the house. Friends would come by to check on her and there she’d be when we returned, having faithfully acquitted herself of her guard-dog duties. And even when we were here, she could distinguish between the threatening rumble of the UPS truck in our driveway and the sound of a friend’s vehicle.
One of the sad facts of growing old is that you outlive the family dog. In the last year, Abby’s arthritis has left her hobbled. She’s grown deaf and nearly blind. When I went to pat her this morning, she didn’t raise her head to greet me.
Our friends were the first to bring her deterioration to our attention. And one by one, with me being the final hold-out, we’ve had to acknowledge that the end is arriving and is in fact here. I don’t know quite how it’s going to happen and even writing these words brings a wave of emotion. But this is the one weekend when we’re all at home and can say goodbye – Estie back from school and Seth returned from Nicaragua. So the family has taken a vote about the matter.
We live in a cruel world, a place that could use a few more smiles. So, saying goodbye to a friend of 15 years, albeit an animal, is strangely difficult. I think God created dogs to cushion the bumps in life’s road. Abby has protected us, yes, but no matter how hard my day may have been, she never failed to wag her tail in greeting me, to invite me to leave the day’s worries at the office.
One day, for most of us, family members will have discussions about our aging as we have about Abby. And subliminally, maybe these kinds of experiences are a dress rehearsal for what lies ahead. The melancholy of the moment is the price of loving well. We’ll miss Abby.

Comments (27)

  • I’ve never met you, your family, much less…your dog… yet I can’t even read the end of your blog because I can’t see it through my tears.
    We’ve always had dogs with our family growing up and I miss not having one here in the mission field. So, my weekend is for comfort and joyful memories for you Seth, and your family…God speed Abby.

  • For me it was a cat, Sherlock. She lasted 13 years, and was my buddy through everything. Shortly after I moved out and got married, she spent a day being really sweet to everyone and then took a long walk in the woods. We’ve gone through dozens of animals too, but Sherlock was the best, and it is sad that sometimes we outlive the best of friends.

  • Hi Seth,

    Thnks for your tender note here.

    It’s important for us to remember God loves creatures great and small.

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    Very interesting… in that our cat…”Orphan” Annie is about 14 years old – soon to die. She looks ragged and in fact, we thought she had gone off in died in the woods, but she came home yesterday. She is sick, and has been a companion to our family, even though I have cat allergies. I normally do not like cats, but she kind of grew on me. A brief story of when we got her…Mary, our daughter was three years old and a neighbor was getting rid of kittens. We went to get Annie and she had never been held,and Mary picked her up and she scratched Mary…who screamed! Well, I grabbed the kitten by the neck, and it promptly bit my index finger harshly – blood started squirting out profusely, and I wanted to kill and throw the thing. Mary started crying and said “Daddy, she didn’t know what she was doing…” Henceforth, “Orphan” Annie became our cat. Yeah, I did need a little physical and “inner” healing to rid me of the bitterness of the bite… Alas, though with friends, we heal from the bites and learn to love and cherish their companionship. Thanks, Seth…

  • hey, seth – I feel our pain – I’ve been where you are, so I know how you feel – if we can trust God with our lives, I guess we can trust Him with the lives of our dogs, too.

  • Oh Abby! She’s always been there to greet us when we come home. What a great family dog.

  • Sending love to you all this weekend. Pets are so integral to a family’s life if you have them, grief is a natural consequence when you lose them. Heartfelt love with you, Cxx

  • Seth,

    I,too, found myself in tears as I read your post which also brought to remembrance our dog Henri, our bird, Pete, several other little creatures whose names I have forgotten
    but captured the hearts of my children….
    having read daughter Kim’s post on Facebook resurrecting memories of schooldays and now this…..I am a mess this morning…God you see the tears and you save them in a bottle…..you need a large bottle for me this morning…..thank you for expressing your tenderness,Seth…God knew I needed a cry and your post as well as Kim’s started the flow…..

  • seth…

    don’t even get me started *sigh* my wife and i have had cats all throughout our marriage… all adoptions or strays. at one point we had 4 at one time, and generally because of the condition they were in when we first encountered them, several went out of here with terrible ailments. everyone of them made their own mark on our lives and our family. we’re down to one now, and i keep saying this will be it… buti’ve said that before so i dunno. i think the older i get the more soft i go & each loss gets a little harder. we’ll be praying for you all this weekend as your time withabby draws to a close…

  • Hi Seth,

    I’m so sorry to hear about Abby I remember playing with her in the mid to late 90s, when she was still very puppy-ish. I even remember the grass clump jumping!

    Our dog Casey has also reached the end of the line. I’m going with my mom today to take her to the vet so they can put her down, and I’m completely heart broken.

    I’m sorry for you, Karen, and all the kids.


  • its a sad day. i am trying not to ruin the festivities here in north carolina by crying. give abby a kiss for me.

  • I love that sentence – “The melancholy of the moment is the price of loving well.” I want to remember that.

    So sorry that your family has to say goodbye to such a faithful friend.

  • Saying goodbye to Abby has to be tough on your whole family. So sorry and praying for you all as you say goodbye to Abby!

  • Wow… I too remember this dog when you all first got it. I know it’s hard for you all, but Abby did have a great life and was “blessed” to have your family there all of these years.

  • Dogs sure do love well :-). Thinking of you all this weekend, and praying for the comfort that comes from other loved ones (and surely Whimsy) in the midst of these goodbyes. I know the struggle, and am grateful that you can all be there to do this together.
    Blessings and prayers to you all,

  • Thanks for helping me grieve with this post daddy. I’ll miss my exploring buddy and I know you’ll miss your running companion. She knows we loved her well.

  • Steve @meintwitter

    This brings back great memories. The first dogs I remember having were two poodles – Snapper & Jeannie. Jeannie was the dog I named after the TV show. They were with us from 1973-76. But my dad had orders to Germany and did not want to take our dogs, so we gave them to someone out in the country. My last memory is both of them chasing our car as we were leaving them. Sad!

  • I agree with you in saying they are God’s gift to us to cushion the bumps in life’s road. I’m sorry for your whole family- dogs truly become a family member and it sounds like Abby did as well.

  • So sorry to hear about Abby!!! Our animals bring such joy to our lives…..may her memories live on!!!

  • Sorry about your loss of Abby. We too lost our mixed breed Abby, just yesterday. She was soon to be 15. We brought her home as a pup in 1994. Our four daughters grew up with Abby and, by coincidence, all were at home yesterday to say goodbye. It was such an emotional day. Sitting here at the computer, I typed in a general search “goodbye to Abby” and discovered your story – so many similarities. I am sure yor Abby brought much joy to your family as our Abby did to our family.

  • Matt,

    I love the coincidences. We have four daughters too.

    We ultimately buried Abby on the property later that day. Her grave, accompanied by her bowl and a cross made of sticks (she was a Christian dog) is in a place in the yard where she liked to walk.

  • Oh sweet Abby! I’ll miss her. She’s always been there, wagging her tail and greeting us over the years. Thanks for this note. I’m very sorry. Tell her goodbye for me.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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