Note: Our beloved Beagle, Daisy, died yesterday. She had been increasingly lethargic on Thursday. Eating and drinking nothing. We began to worry. I took her to the vet yesterday and we soon learned Daisy’s liver was filled with several small cancerous tumors, some of which were spilling blood into her stomach. The kindest (and hardest) thing we could do was to let her go. Tears, hugs, kisses and thank-you’s all took place in the afternoon.. and by 4:30pm, we were saying a final goodbye. It was terribly, terribly hard. I wrote the following thoughts this morning — the first morning without our dear, fuzzy friend…
It is 4:45am and I wake up.
I wake up because it is completely quiet.
I wake up because there is no scratching at the door, no light whimpering and no pawing at my feet to let a little rascal with four feet out the door to pee…. and really, to have the excuse to force me to give her an early morning treat. Anything for a treat…
I used to complain about these early morning wake-up calls. Two days ago, I complained about this early morning wake-up call.
I would give anything to complain about it again. And to have that four-legged friend climb back into bed, her tummy now full, as we settled back in for a few more winks, together… she keeping me warm on a cold winter’s morn.
I must admit, even as one who has spent most of his adult life in a career that involves comforting people through loss, I underestimated the degree of grief one feels in this moment. Everything so many of you have written is true. These little “people” with fur and four legs actually DO become one of the family. And to lose her, so suddenly…
Daisy saw us through a lot as a family. Caitlyn was eight years old when we first got her, and she (Caitlyn) had been traumatized by a neighbor’s large black lab as a toddler. That dog had gotten into our back porch one afternoon where Caitlyn was playing and, actually just being playful, had jumped up on Caitlyn and knocked her down. Little Cait was scared to death and became quite frightened of any canine thereafter for several years. She used to climb up Jana or my legs like a telephone poll and scramble to nearly sitting on top of our heads when she would see any dog… even from a distance in the park. Because of that traumatic experience as a toddler, she was legitimately terrified of dogs.
Daisy was the dog that broke that curse for Cait.
Jana, Christina and Caitlyn were driving by a pet store in Apple Valley, MN in the summer of 2004… we were living in Lakeville at the time…. and they saw a “Last Hope Adoption” sign and decided, on a whim, to go in and check it out. When they walked in the store, the first dog they saw was a lovable, beautiful little beagle … about 2 yrs old, who had apparently been mistreated by her owners and needed someone to love her well. Little did we know the degree to which the tables would be turned, and the reverse would be true. She was about to love US so well. SO very well, indeed.
I believe Christina was drawn to Daisy in that pet store first… but to Jana’s shock and surprise, Caitlyn also walked right up to this little Beagle, and was instantly, completely at peace. (She had a grade school friend who owned a beagle.. and apparently had started to get a bit more comfortable with this breed of dog… and this breed alone! The future had been set. This was meant to be…)
Between this shocking, sudden change in our little Caitlyn Grace … and Jana and Christina’s immediate love of this adorable little Beagle… the deal was done. They say they tried to call me at work to get my opinion, but I don’t think they tried very hard. J When I arrived home that afternoon, all three ladies in my life were standing, waiting for me in the driveway with very curious smiles on their faces which I couldn’t quite interpret. They followed me, silently, as I walked into the house , down the hallway and into the kitchen where I saw the cutest little pup I can remember ever meeting. I remember saying, “There is a dog in our kitchen. Why is there a dog in our kitchen?” They laughed, Daisy cuddled up to me, and I was won over in 30 seconds flat. Never looked back. I fell in love with her instantly, just like my three Blondies had.
Don’t get me wrong. Daisy was rascal. She was a Beagle through and through. We never really could get her fully trained to obey us much… and she loved to bolt out the door and run, run, run after anything that moved… anything that looked even remotely close to resembling a squirrel or a rabbit. She could run for miles… and we spent many a summer night in that part of Lakeville, chasing her down after one of her breakaways out the front door. She could be moody and loud and stubborn. Just like the rest of our family. So, I guess she fit right in. And we loved her for it.
We have been through some incredible highs in life these past ten years, but also through some very dark valleys. As the Blondies grew from spunky little kids to beautiful young-adult beauties, Daisy was there for all of us, through all of it. Though the good, the bad and the ugly, Daisy was a constant source of unconditional love, companionship, and comfort… SUCH comfort. She brought laughter and joy to all of us, but especially to Jana… as Daisy stayed by her side through not one, but TWO bouts with cancer… including two rounds of chemo and one round of radiation. Their daily routine, for the past ten years, healthy or sick, was for Jana to get her cup of coffee, grab her Bible and sit down in her big cozy chair with Daisy by her side, as “together” they read the Bible and prayed through the valley of the shadow of death.
During the past 10 years Daisy also saw us through two very difficult battles in congregations we served where the human side of the church got ugly… and our family was, in some ways, hung out to dry. In those two experiences, where it would have been easy to lose our faith and wonder where God was in it all, it was a group of trusted Christian friends and parishioners, along with our family… and yes… very much the constant, and unquestioning love of God as shown through a little Beagle… that helped to pull us through and remain afloat… in the midst of the spiritual and emotional storm. We used to call her “the Holy Spirit with fur on” and, I for one… do not think it is a coincidence … as silly as it sounds, that “DOG” is the same word as “GOD” spelled backwards.
And I will never underestimate, again, the pain of friend or a parishioner who loses a dear, beloved pet. As much of rascal and a character that she was… she represented a present, “incarnational” love from God that, quite simply, was and is irreplaceable.
So, it is now 5:30am… and I can’t go back to sleep.
Good-bye little friend who woke me up too early every morning. We loved you so very much. And you loved US… SO very well, little “last hope” Beagle.
And we are forever grateful.