Making sense of a tragedy…
As a single guy I have many good relationships with family and friends. These can be a life saver for my sanity. I have both female and male friends who I listen to and vice-versa, over coffee, food, or through random texts that desperately need my opinion about their child’s behaviour, and some other crisis they are feeling. However, even though I usually feel quite self-assured that my life is not falling to pieces, apart of my lack of success in the romance department, I do have my occasional S.O.S call because I feel like I’m about to fall into a deep dark hole.
This happened recently, when my close friend of 6 years suddenly died. She was my constant companion. She was so sweet, and seemed to know exactly how to comfort or nurture me. She was my 7 year old dog. A golden retreiver with a very gentle nature. She came with me to work several days a week, and blessed everyone there. She worked with behaviour problem children mostly…sort like a child whisper.
I felt so connected to her. I loved her. Even as I write this I feel the tears coming back to my eyes. The worst part is that it was my oversight, my mistake that lead to her untimely demise. She was lying there in the grass, with wet blankets on her, as I assumed she was suffering from heat exhaustion. Little did I know that she was already dying, because she had red dots in her ears, which meant she was suffering from blood clotting.
How it happened
I forgot to leave the window down as I always do. It was like a perfect storm. I decided to replace my fence, and she had no yard to play in. All the lumber for the fence was in the garage so i parked my car outside for the week. I had always been in the habit of opening my windows while the car was in the garage to air it out. But now because it was outside, I had them all closed. I felt bad that my dog had lost her yard to run around in, and was determined to get her out to the parks as frequently as I could. This morning I got up and rushed around after finishing my breakfast, because it was my turn to lead the large group sunday school lesson at church (grades 2-4). But I had a thought that I was going to be working with some foster kids that afternoon, and I wouldn’t have time to pick the dog up before heading out to their place. These kids were always asking about the dog. So I quickly found the dog blanket and put it in the backseat. I grabbed her dog snacks and leash, and then she jumped happily into the back seat. It was about 16C and overcast, but did feel a little humid outside. My plan was to drive to the church, park with the windows and sunroof open, and then do my volunteer job, and then wisk myself and the dog out to the home in the country. However, I said bye to her, and I didn’t lower the windows, as I rushed into the church. In my mind the windows were already down because, they always were open first thing in the morning, and I hadn’t closed them. I did my job, and chatted with a few people, even talking with one person about how great my dog was for me and my work. I went out to the car, in a happy mood. I opened the door and looked at my dog, who was lying awkwardly in the backseat. She looked at me with one eye and I knew something was wrong. She didn’t respond to me at first, but with encouragement, she got up and flopped out of the back seat onto the cement. She tried to stand but couldn’t. She seemed to get up and fall, and seemed disoriented. I picked her up and carried her to the grass, asking a bystander if they could get a bowl of water. Another kind woman asked me if I needed any help. I told her I wasn’t sure. She suggested some wet towels. I agreed immediately, and she went to fetch them. We tried to spoon feed water to her, and kept those wet towels wrapped around her.
She is showing positive signs
She started to show signs of re-vitalizing. I had talked with pet-rescue services on the phone, and they said this was a good sign, and to keep cooling her down. I thought, “she is going to be fine and normal again soon.” She started to nuzzle my hand with her nose. She was reaching up with her paw, like she always did, to ask for more petting and nurture. I saw those red dots in her ear, but didn’t know what they meant. Then something started to change in her. I recognized the symptoms of trauma. I called pet rescue, and they arrived about 20 minutes later, put her on a stretcher, and took her to the vet. I arrived at the vets with this woman, who was supporting me (her family and children drove in the car behind us). After 10 minutes, I was called into a room (this woman came with me).
My heart is crushed
The vet came in and explained that she was dead. He stated that the cooling downattempt may have been too fast, and her immune system, which was already stressed, could not regulate it back to normal, causing a stroke. I cried so hard for about 10 minutes. This was so sad. This dog was so precious and deserved so much more. She must have suffered so much. Desperate for some fresh air from a car that she was so happy to ride with me in on so many occasions…so happy a few hours prior – then suffering – then death.
I prayed over her dead body as I hugged her in that vet office for the last time. I prayed, “Please God, take her spirit to be with you…she made a positive difference in this world… not only for me, but for so many others as well. She loved much. I hope to see her again. You blessed me with her for 6 years. I feel like I wasted this precious blessing…so careless… I am so disappointed in myself. I know I want another dog…another with traits like her, but maybe one that will fetch too. Sorry God, for not caring better for her. I miss her so much.”
Reflection – Why did this have to happen? What is the point?
That was a tough day for me. I took my bible (The Message) a few days later and flipped it open to Ecclesiates 7. King Solomon, one of the wealthiest, and wisest men to ever live spoke to me with these words here: “Better to cry, as it scours the heart, then to laugh with fools.” I thought this was true for me now. But what really caught my heart that day was, “Don’t knock yourself out being too good, or wise…it doesn’t always lead to good fruit… don’t push your luck by being bad or reckless either. Enjoy good days, and grieve on bad days.” My dog was a gift from God. She was just what I needed after a longterm romantic relationship broke my heart. She made my days happier then I realized. Thankyou for her God. She really blessed me.
I thought alot about what Romans 8:28 means in this circumstance. What good would come out of this for me…for anyone? A caring friend mentioned to me that he had been praying about this for me too, as he was wondering the same thing. He stated that what came to him was that I worked in a job with a lot of broken parents and children, and I have heard a lot of careless tales about parents that lead to the neglect or harm to their children or others. One parent was already coming to my mind. A lot of people were quite openly critical of her in front of me, and sometimes directly to her. She was absent minded during a period of her life and a series of poor choices was wreaking havoc now, years later with respect to her children’s behaviour. Maybe God didn’t make my dog die, but when it happened because of my mistake, God saw it as a powerful empathy tool for me to use in my practice.
Understanding and renewed vision
Nothing teaches better then living through an experience. Many of these parents were teenagers or not ready to deal with a major responsibility, when they had their children. From building a relationship with these parents, in helping them diagnose, and problem solve the current issues, I have to come to know that they love their children, and want to guide them in the right direction. They can’t change the past, but they can change the future with their choices today (a parent said to me). So many professionals I work with want to point the finger at their incompetence. God has shown me through this experience, that I can weep with them, empathize with them, and support them with comforting advice, and honest strategies. That woman and her family (I didn’t get her name) who supported me without any condemnation were like the spirit of Jesus, holding and comforting my heart. This is an experience that I will share with a family or parent at some point in the near future. Anyone of us can make a mistake, and often we don’t experience consequences so severely. Do we choose bitterness, self-pity, or dispair? None of these are good choices, but sadly, too often, that is what many of us choose. We can meditate on Romans 8:28, and try to understand how God might make lemon-aid out of a bad situation. I know I can use this experience to show kindness, and through sharing my experience, create empowerment, and hope. Seems like a good starting place. With a good strategy, and consistent support, I have seen some of these broken people start to heal. I am so blessed to be part of this process…I will still miss my old friend, and the memories are still bitter-sweet, but I am thankful that something positive can come out of this.
I have a new dog. He is the same breed exactly, but not the same dog. He is sweet in his own way, and he fetches like crazy!