There’s a curious custom we have as humans; we invite other species into our homes, whether they be fish, gecko, hamster, cat or the noble dog, and we ask them to be a part of our families.
It is a curious custom because these friends oftentimes do not have the lifespan that we do. They live long enough to become a part of our family, and are too soon lost just at the point where you cannot remember life without their companionship. And while the loss of a pet pales in comparison with the loss of a human loved one, it has its own cruel shape of sting that injects into your life. Why do we do it? Why do we invite them in, only to watch them go?
Perhaps it’s an aspect of God, the Maker, within us that we want to mirror, that we care for those creatures who possess less power than we do. We extend our hand and provide food, drink, and shelter for these friends who could not do so otherwise. But they reward us with something more than just gratitude for our generosity: they become for us, and in the case of the dog in particular, the physical embodiment of unconditional love. There is no shame, no guilt, no jealousy, none of the other human attributes that too often we have to navigate in our daily lives. There is only love.
We lost our Dixie this week, after being a part of our lives for almost 16 years. She was smart, loyal, and loving, and we will never forget her. She was the first addition to the family, joining my wife less than a year before I met her. She was with us as our family grew with more additions: another dog, a boy, another boy, and a girl. While she could run and jump and swim and fetch with the best of them for the longest time, her body had been slowing down for the last couple of years. She could no longer hear the call for dinner. She could no longer bound up the stairs. She knew it was her time to go, so she left us on her own, while my wife held her in her arms, just the two of them.
Now she can run and run and run. She was a good dog. Always.