In light of the prospect of acquiring a puppy (hopefully this weekend!), I felt compelled to finally write down some thoughts on saying goodbye to our dog Daisy, who passed away on December 27, 2012. She had suffered a neck injury that she could not recover from and was in a great deal of pain so we finally had to put her down.
Daisy’s journey with us was riddled with symbolic meaning, at least for me. She was a Christmas present from my Dad and step-Mom about 7 years ago. We were told at the time that she was a Beagle mix, around 3 years old (her shelter name was Sabrina!). She had been picked up off the streets with a litter of puppies. Who knows what harsh realities she had to face in those 3 years before we rescued her! She was relatively stable, though increasingly terrified of thunderstorms, a regular occurrence in our area. Her fear was annoying at times, especially to my wife who Daisy would often wake up by nuzzling her nose under her arm for comfort when the thunder rolled through. Though things like this about her were annoying at the time, I see them now as part of what made her unique, her idiosyncratic, neurotic self! They are things I think back on with fondness and some regret - regret that I didn’t appreciate her more.
Another example had to do with her stubborn Beagle will. Her stubbornness was legendary in our household! She was clearly intelligent, but we gave up on leash training her because she was so stubborn and set in her ways! Perhaps we should have persisted, but I’ve since learned it’s more important to know and love a real dog with flaws than raise a perfectly obedient dog with all the rough edges shaved off. It’s more important because that’s how people are, how life is. Real people are like that - messy, complicated mixtures of chaos and order. Daisy always helped me remember and appreciate this.
Daisy was not our first choice in a dog. We had picked one out on a Saturday before Christmas, but they had to get permission from our complex office which had to wait until Monday. When Cheri and the kids went to pick her up on Monday (while I was at work), the dog we had picked out was already adopted and gone! Somewhat heartbroken, Cheri and the kids picked Daisy instead. Though she turned out great for our family, I always harbored a bit of resentment that we weren’t able to take home the dog we picked (and I wasn’t able to be present to pick out the alternate). Daisy was always symbolic to me of the life I did not choose, but was nonetheless given to me – symbolic of the limits placed on my life. Sometimes this led to bitterness, but often it forced me to deal with my feelings of regret and anger before God. So Daisy was a blessing in disguise for me specifically, reminding me that the life I did not choose is still a gift from God to be received and lived. What other life is there?
Daisy and I had a special relationship. To her, it was clear I was the “alpha male” and she sought my approval above all others. She was always most excited when I came home! Though sometimes this attention seeking came at inopportune times, most of the time it was welcome and I have many fond memories of cuddling with her. One of my favorite memories was our almost daily routine of cuddling during my back exercises (which I have to do 3x a day). She would come over and lay on top of my chest (back legs still on the floor) and nuzzle her long nose under my chin. I cherished those times with her, always trying to see how close she could get to my face! Sometimes she would just end up laying on my chest (though my chest is large, she could barely fit!). This is what I miss the most, and I deeply regret not having any pictures of this! I took it for granted that we would have many more years to cuddle.
I’m convinced more than ever that God especially created dogs to be companions to his image bearers, especially those of us with images that are cracked, scratched and badly stained. They intuit emotion and mood better than any other pet, and I have found deep healing in their presence over the years. Their loyalty and fiercely gracious affection overlooks far more transgression than humans are typically capable of. To me they will always represent the fierce affection of the Lover of our souls, the Abba of Jesus who gave up the world to rescue his people, to rescue me.
Thank you, Father, for Daisy the Beagle! We are better sons and daughters of God because of her presence. As we drive to Eastern Kentucky to pick up a brand new member, a Beagle only 10-11 weeks old, another chapter will begin in our family. I hope this time to take more pictures and learn to love more freely, without regrets, fully accepting the dog who freely accepts me. Maybe this will better help me give and receive God’s love too.