We love. We lose. We grow.

{by Heather Spring Gilion}

It was like one of those frustrating, sappy-love-story movies that you invest 2 hours of your life on, just to bawl your eyes out in the end because one of the main characters, that you’ve fallen in love with, tragically dies! You want to punch the director {and the actors, for that matter}, because your heart doesn’t like to be yanked around, you know! I mean, come on, things are supposed to end up happily ever after! {Especially in the movies.}

Well, that’s how I feel right now. If we are Facebook friends you have seen my recent pictures of Max the dog. We agreed to dog-sit for my mom and dad as they were off visiting family in Texas. “Oh sure, we’ll watch Max! My boys will love this!” I said.

To be honest, my hubby and I are not huge “animal” people. We don’t dislike them, but we’re not the type that have ever longed for an animal in the house. Our motto has always been to keep things simple. To add yet ANOTHER thing to our already busy lives was not high on our priority list. But dog-sitting? Sure we can do that. BUT we had no idea what “trouble” we were getting ourselves into.

Max was not your average dog. He was special. He fit right in and the boys fell in love. A few days into our time with Max, I started to hear, “I wish Max was our dog.” “Can we get a dog?” “I wish Max never had to leave.” They’d even put those words to song. They would be building Legos and I’d hear Noah singing, “I wish you were our dog, Max. I looooo-oooove you, Max.”

We were in trouble.

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I jokingly “warned” my mom that she might never get Max back. I was half kidding. But when it came down to it, we were falling for Max. We loved how he greeted us when we came in the door. We loved rubbing his belly and chasing him around in our backyard. I loved having my new hairy friend follow me around the house.

I started thinking, “I shed more than Max and the hubby keeps me around! So maybe…”

When my mom offered for us to keep Max we were all set to say no, but we just couldn’t. He had to stay! Although my mom loved Max she knew he’d love being around the boys and he’d get a little more attention here. So… you can call us “Suckers,” but we caved. Max was here to stay!

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But a sad turn of events happened…

We got a dog, fell in love with the dog, and then had to say good-bye to our dog.

Like I said, it was like City of Angels all over again. The lovebirds are finally together and then Meg Ryan just has to ride her bike without her eyes open! “Open your eyes, dummy! Are you crazy, lady?”

Two-weeks into our doggie honeymoon and he gets sick. We think he’s just got some digestive issues. Or we reasoned maybe the transition, even though he’s happy with us, we wondered if he was anxious from all the change. We took him to the vet to get him looked over. They are more concerned about how skinny he was and his lack of appetite, and they showed us how he had noticeable muscle loss. We were newbies so we didn’t know he should be thicker or be eating more than he was. The vet suggested changing to a better dog food. Sure, not a problem. I had given him a rawhide bone so we were wondering if it was giving him tummy issues. But the vet assured us that wasn’t the issue. “There’s something else going on with this dog, I just can’t put my finger on it.” The vet said. “Watch him closely and let me know if he gets worse.”

He got worse.

By the next evening I was racing him to the emergency vet, imagining a surgery was in his future.

I felt like an imposter sitting in this vet clinic. How did I end up here? I’m still processing that I’m a pet owner. I waited as they looked him over and took x-rays.

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Waiting

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More waiting…

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Still waiting.

And then the news.

“Max isn’t going to make it.” A chronic illness within his small intestines that had been going on for a while finally manifested itself and it was too late. Two days ago he was his happy self, but today was a different story. Surgery wouldn’t even save our Max. I was faced with putting my dog to sleep. What a failure for this first time dog owner! Oh my word… who does this happen to?

I spent some time petting my doggie. My dog. I took in this beautiful masterpiece. I was so emotional and so in awe of the love I had for him. God had made Max. He created this animal with such wonderful detail. I was thankful for the two weeks I had with Max, learning and understanding more about the bond people have with animals.

I remember after losing my first husband James, I had someone come up to me after I shared my story and they said, “I know how you feel. I lost my dog a couple years ago.” What?!?! Are you serious, right now? Well, I’m not saying that’s completely the same. BUT for that person, and I don’t know their story, but their dog may have been all that they had, a companion to them that they considered family. I have a new compassion for those that have grieved the loss of a furry family member.

I watched him breath his last breaths.

Death is just sad. I can’t wait until the day that death isn’t in our vocabulary anymore.

Two elderly women were in the vet clinic with their coughing doggie. They asked how Max was. “He didn’t make it.” I whispered through my sobs. Their hugs were gifts from my God. They cried with me. A stranger’s empathy spilled into the room and covered my aching heart. I needed that hug.

Now to tell the boys.

We all four bawled our eyes out. We experienced the entire realm of dog ownership in a two-week time period. We loved, we enjoyed, we cared for, and then… we lost.

“We were a family of four. Then we became a family of five… but now we’re a family of four again!” – said through sobs, Zman (5 years old)

“Can we pray him down from Heaven?”

“I’m gonna miss the way his collar jingled when he walked through the house.”

We’ve had a lot of good conversations. Death is hard. In this life we learn, we love, we lose, and hopefully we grow. I have a new appreciation of our great God who expresses His extravagant creativity in His created.

So sometimes you watch that sappy 2-hour movie and want to kick something because you loved just to lose. But today I’m thankful for our short love-story. Max was worth it.

Maybe someone out there is scared to love because of the fear of loss. We aren’t promised the happily-ever-after ending, BUT what we are promised is far greater! In HIM we are offered fullness of joy. We are offered real love. We are offered God IN US! So whether we say good-bye or hello, we can trust that we will be forever changed for the better. The happy-ever-after will come… and HAS come in the person of Jesus.

Love on.

“There is no fear in love.” 1 John 4:18

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5 thoughts on “We love. We lose. We grow.

  1. I am so sorry for the loss of Max. I know when my husband died, having my dog Heaven by my side made life a bit better, gave me a reason to get up in the morning and get dressed. I know it’s not the same as losing a person, but it still leaves a hole in your heart where that love was. Again, I am so sorry for your very real loss.

  2. Wish there was a love button for this post. You have learned many lessons through loss and you share them with your heart. the compassion you write with is incredible. I am so sorry you lost Max. I am watching as my older dog goes through the throes of old age. One day he is spry, the next he sleeps. There are lessons for us in every event of our daily lives, if we look for what our Lord is showing us. I am grateful for the lessons you so freely share. You are a blessing. May your family’s heart be comforted knowing you gave Max a wonderful send off. DAF

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