Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Joe

For those of you who have read Saturdays with Stella, you know what a treasure she is to us. And, if you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that, just over a year ago, we inherited another dog...Joe. Joe belonged to my father-in-law, Wayne, and when Wayne passed away last year, Joe became part of our inheritence. He is, in many ways, like Wayne. Gruff and stubborn, he moves around with a distinctive limp. When we first brought Joe into our household, I admit I was less than enthusiastic. My standard line was this: "The bad news is, he weighs 85 pounds; the good news is, he's 13 years old."

In recent weeks, though, Joe's health has taken a sharp decline. He's obviously in a great deal of pain. In fact, he moves only from the door, to his big pillow, to the food dish, and back. His evening walks are little more than a few steps out of our alley gate, and he returns from that exhausted. He's relentlessly incontinent, and intermittently aggeressive. So, it's time.

It's a huge, grave, daunting responsibility to hold the life of another creature in your hands. Dog or not, Joe embodies a lifetime of memories with us. I remember his puppyhood--even though his "puppy" size was enough to knock over my then-toddler sons. I remember him running head-first into the van door when I shut it against his invasion. Tiny little dent, there--in the door, not his head. I remember him running through cattle fields on my inlaws' land, tearing down the drive to usher in the visiting family (I was always terrified we'd run him over). Most of all, though, I remmber the days and weeks and months after my mother-in-law, Jean, died, and Wayne would walk for hours and hours with Joe at his side. He loved that dog, and when Wayne went into the hospital, Joe was left at home alone for a while. Nobody knew Wayne wouldn't be coming home from that visit, but I think somehow Joe knew. When we brought him to our home, he had large patches where he'd worn his fur clean away--great big bald patches the vet said was due to stress. And, I believe, to sadness.

And so, on Saturday, Joe and Wayne will be reunited. I'm a firm believer in animals in heaven. Scripture assures us that the new Earth will have all the creatures that the old one has. Joe is God's creature, and he was Wayne's best friend. I have the most beautiful picture in my head of Wayne in Heaven, turning around, and having his already-complete joy doubled over at the sight of Joe--fully restored--bounding across some patch of paradise to meet him.


  1. Aw, I'm sorry. My daughter just went through this with her yellow Lab, a sweet old girl. As Kipling said, the price of a good dog is a broken heart at the end. Hugs to all of you.

  2. I love how you wrote of your honest feelings towards a grumpy Joe... yet spoke with such respect and love at the same time. Just another great story to tell of life's greatest triumphs... regardless of our true character... all creatures... great and small... have worth.

    Simply Beautiful.

  3. Meg--I love that quote. Thank you so much for sharing!

    And I've been overwhelmed with love and support and prayer. Today is a hard day. I just can't look at him...We're all just trying to keep ourselves busy...

  4. This is really hard, Allison. I understand. We had to say goodbye to our old beloved cat two years ago, and it's indeed a terrible responsibility to make decisions about life and death, even animal life. C.S. Lewis made a great theological case for domestic pets in heaven in _The Problem of Pain_. So I agree with your happy vision of Wayne and Joe. And I look forward to the wonderful day when we realize with surprise and joy that all our pets are gathered there waiting for us.

  5. Praying for you and your family tonight. It truly is like giving up a family member to heaven. I pray God's blessings of joyfilled memories will play themselve out across each of your lives in the coming weeks. Hold them tight, soak them in and know that he loved you too.

  6. If It Should Be...

    If it should be that I grow weak,
    And pain should keep me from my sleep,
    Then you must do what must be done,
    For this last battle cannot be won.

    You will be sad, I understand;
    Don't let your grief then stay your hand.
    For this day more than all the rest,
    Your love for me must stand the test.

    We've had so many happy years -
    What is to come can hold no fears.
    You'd not want me to suffer so;
    The time has come, so let me go.

    Take me where my needs they'll tend
    And please stay with me until the end.
    Hold me firm and speak to me
    Until my eyes no longer see.

    I know in time that you will see
    The kindness that you did for me.
    Although my tail its last has waved,
    From pain and suffering I've been saved.

    Please do not grieve - it must be you
    Who had this painful thing to do.
    We've been so close, we two, these years -
    Don't let your heart hold back its tears.
    - Author Unknown -