The dreaded moment had arrived. I reluctantly called out to our beautiful, six-year old Boxer, “Samson, let’s go in the car.” He rounded the corner; less enthusiastic than normal, stubby tail wagging, ready to escort us anywhere - even unto death.
I never wanted another dog; they are so much work, they make messes, they dig holes, they tie you down…
As Mike and I fought to hold back the tears, our emotions ran hot and cold. This ride would be his last. No more trips to the grocery store, no more over-nighters at Grandma’s house, no more episodes of Animal Planet, no more games of “tug”, no more “I love your dog, Mister” from the neighborhood kids, no more…
It was five and a half years ago when Mike brought this skinny, timid, seven-month old “rescue” dog into our home for the week-end. The frightened pup sat there shaking for an entire night. Mike assured me, “We’ll just try him out for a couple of days. If you don’t like him, we’ll find him another home.”
My stomach was in knots. My forehead beaded up with perspiration; a cold damp cloth eased the sudden nausea. The deadly diagnoses devastated our lives more than either of us could have ever imagined.
The weather was finally getting nice enough to be outside. Samson loved his morning walks more than he loved ice-cream…almost.
When it came time to say good-bye, we were overwhelmed with grief; tears fell unashamedly to the floor, our bodies quivering inside and out. This Samson who had spent his whole life trying to please us, who left his paw print on our hearts, had to be “put down”.
I expected him to come running around the corner when we first entered the house…but of course, there were no footsteps, only silence, a deafening quiet. Not the kind of quiet you look forward to after a long day at work…but the kind of sad desolation you experience when your heart has been irreparably shattered.
Is there any doubt why the sorrow reaches so deep? If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know what I’m talking about. Call it unconditional love. Are you in a bad mood? He adores you. Are you sad? He licks your face. Are you angry? He wags his tail. Are you lonely? He sits by your side. Are you in the mood for ice cream? He’s willing to share.
Heads spun around as he paraded proudly in the back seat of my Volkswagen convertible; white chest puffed out, ears flapping in the breeze. I adored my “Handsome Samson” and I am convinced he knew it.
No one expected our young, invincible Boxer to get Lymphoma. It is the horrifying nightmare that never lets you rest. The bad dream persists each time the back door is opened, every time the doorbell rings, whenever we go to the mailbox. With every subtle reminder, our hearts break a little more.
The day after we got the conclusive test results, I prayed for a miracle. Please God, please heal him. I know that You have the power…I’m begging You. I know I don’t deserve any favors, but please…hear my prayer.
When I recall that last moment, the instant the life went out of Samson’s body, I seek comfort in believing that he is in Heaven, relieved of the pain, free from cancer. I imagine him racing at top speed through colorful meadows, splashing through mountain streams and stopping abruptly to gaze back – hoping to see us close behind. But my sorrow does not cease and the void in my spirit remains.
Some might call it blasphemy to compare God’s love with that of an animal. If you’ve ever been loved by one, you’ll recognize God in him. Your pet has the capacity to love you and expect nothing in return. This is similar to the unconditional love that God lavishes upon us. When you think about it, unconditional love is rare in humans, but incredibly common in our canine (and feline) companions. For what it’s worth, a simple thought that popped into my mind is this: the word d-o-g spelled backwards is: G-o-d! Who else would put up with our selfish, sinful behaviors besides God and our four-legged friends?
I know that I am a better person because God loaned us one of His most magnificent animals, but I...we…are heartbroken that He reclaimed him so soon.
*A tribute to the best dog ever: Samson ~ May 4, 2003 – April 9, 2009
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