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Losing a Family Pet
Photo: Lola Howle
My brother-in-law and his wife came home the other night expecting to be greeted by Toby, their adorable Chihuahua. Purchased as a puppy, he’s been a part of their family for years. When their three children took off for college, it was Toby who stayed behind to help fill the emptiness. But that night, instead of his welcoming bark, there was silence. They explained why in an e-mail:

"When we got home Toby didn’t run out to meet us like he usually does, so we started looking for him. We finally found him lying in the closet. He was dead. We went out into the dark night with wind howling, and buried him in the garden near the willow tree. We’re grieving our little dog friend tonight. We’ll miss the little guy. I’ll have to make a scrapbook of all the pictures we have of him…."

Those of you who have pets know very well how they can become like one of the family. And when they die, there’s an empty place. I wrote back to my brother-in-law and family, letting them know that I understood what it feels like:

My Reply

"I cried as I read your e-mail. I’m so sorry about Toby. I remember well when my dog Snickers died. I was sixteen-years-old. Years before, Dad had brought him home from the animal shelter as a pet for the whole family. But when my siblings grew tired of him, he became my dog and stayed that way until his whiskers turned gray.

"The night he died, Dad and I buried him under a tall fur tree in the field near our house. Dad gave me his best white shirt to wrap Snickers in. And being a pastor, he also gave a funeral talk. At the last minute I removed Snickers’ collar, which I still have in my memory box.

"The next morning I asked Dad, ‘Will Snickers be in heaven?’ His answer satisfied my sixteen-year-old mind when he said, ‘The Bible doesn’t say what will happen to pets, but I do know this: In heaven everything will be perfect. Everything that’s wrong will be made right. And we’ll be totally happy. So if for you, that means having Snickers there, then I think he’ll be in heaven.’

"I’ve shared this story to say that I’ve experienced the loss you’re feeling, and to share the hope that a better world is coming for all of us."

Whether your family has experienced the loss of a pet or of someone far more precious, hold on to the hope Dad gave me years ago: "In heaven everything will be perfect. Everything that’s wrong will be made right. And we’ll be totally happy."

" ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away’ " (Revelation 21:4).

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By Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2007 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture take from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION © 1982.

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