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Friday, September 19, 2014

Saying Good bye to Our Dog

My Son’s Dog

This has been a fairly difficult day emotionally, because I have known all day that this would be Maggie’s last day.  So she has had a few extra treats today, a few leftovers she wouldn’t normally get and a few extra pats on the head.  I know why that was happening, but she didn’t.  It has been a tough year.  My dad passed away last spring at 94 years of age, after he and I have spent day after day together for the last five years.  It also wasn’t that long ago my mom also passed away, 2012 in the fall.  A while back I wrote a blog about my own dog when I had to put her down, and how important she was for me when I went through my divorce.  So there has been plenty of loss in my life in recent years.  Maggie introduces another dimension into the mix.

Maggie entered our lives as a puppy.  It was during my children’s teenage years that my ex-wife decided she was going to file for divorce.  During those early days I got my beagle who kept me company for many years.  A year or so later, for a variety of reasons, our youngest child, my son, moved to my home and out of his mother’s.   It had been a tumultuous time for all of us. 

Shortly after he settled in, we got to talking about dogs.  He had run across an ad for giveaway puppies that were half Labrador half German short hair, and he asked if he could get one.  Though I explained it was not a great time since he would be headed to college in just a few short years, he won out and we went to get a puppy.

The puppy was one of a large litter, born into a large pack of aggressive guard dogs.  She was the runt of the litter, and extremely timid. That must have been what won his heart.  She was the one he selected and brought home, naming her Maggie. 

Maggie was very timid, very nervous and very quiet.  In fact, I have only heard her bark a handful of times through her approximately a decade and a half of life.  And when she did bark, it was for good reason.  It took a long time for her to be willing to even come to us, as she hid under the back porch, where she and my dog had houses to sleep in.  Over time, she cozied up to my son, and was at least willing to say hi to me now and then.  Eventually I was accepted into her inner circle.

Often she slept on a pillow beside his bed, sometimes she was outside.  But she always had an overriding fear that somebody was going to leave her behind, and I never knew why.  I figure the timidity came from being small and the aggressiveness of the other dogs where she was born, but who knows why she had “abandonment issues”?  (Little did I know at the time that this puppy would be followed by lizards and snakes and cats…sigh.)

Divorce was a hard time for the kids, as it often is.  Maggie was a source of comfort in an unstable time.  When he moved to college, he wasn’t able to take her at first, so she was content to live with me and my beagle.  Sometimes the two of them would get loose from the yard, and they would go tour the neighborhood and visit all their doggie friends.  I might find them clear across town, but they would always be side by side.

I only heard her growl or bark in anger one time, and that was when a stranger was walking through the alley and got too close to where my young step-daughters were playing in a tree.  The stranger did not come closer.  She was a good guard dog. 

Later, when he transferred to another school, she was able to go be with him.  But her abandonment issues continued.  He once left her in a cousin’s second floor apartment for an evening, only to come home and discover she had broken through the window and was wandering around Portland, Oregon looking for him!  They found her after a long evening. 

When he moved again, the new apartment restricted the size of pets, so she came back to live with me.  She likes being around me, but if my son shows up, she won’t be around me very much at all.  

I suspect Maggie has brought a great deal of comfort to my son during hard times.  And I suspect she has heard his struggles, as he hugged her close (after all, you aren’t going to tell your troubles to a snake!).  This dog was an important way he staked a personal claim in an uncertain time.  She was someone who belonged just to him, as well as gave him responsibility around the house.  Though the divorce was between his mother and I, the heartaches were shared by the children as well.  Maggie helped him through some rough times of life. 

Lately, as she has aged, Maggie has developed back troubles.  She couldn’t see very good any more.  And she couldn’t hear, either.  In fact, there are several things that were just kind of falling apart about her.  She would slip and fall, and get grouchy if you touched her sore back, but she still loved to eat.  And she might have slept all day if I was around, but the second I left the house or left her in the yard, she would start pacing looking for me, until I returned.  When I returned, she would always come over to greet me and put her nose against me as if to ask, “Where have you been?  And why didn’t you take me with you?”

When her walking turned to a troubled hobble this week, we decided it was time to let her go.  And so an appointment was made, treats were given, and she had her final time with me and my wife, and with my son today.  Now she lies buried beside my dog, together again. 

I once had a child ask if pets go to heaven.  I decided they did, since the scripture talks about the wolf lying down with the lamb, and that creation is longing for the redemption that comes with Christ’s return.  So maybe my beagle and his lab mix are wandering the streets of heaven today, wondering when we will come and see them.  As I have gotten older, I am more aware of how much loss and heartache comes in life, and perhaps the hardest of all is when you have to say goodbye to someone special for the very last time.  Even if that someone is just a dog.

If you have been caught in the hard times of divorce, I encourage you to consider what you could do to help ease the time for your children.  Some of the choices you make may help, some they misunderstand, but don’t get so caught up in your own pain that you can’t see theirs as well.  Maybe, just maybe, you ought to get them a dog.  (I recommend it over the snake or bearded dragon!)  I’m glad I did.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet dog. She even let me pet her occasionally