Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Job 12: 7-10 and a Tribute to Sheba (Don't Read if You Don't Want to be Sad)

Yesterday, the vet came to our house to euthanize our dog.  Emailing and speaking to the vet on Monday to ask her to come over was incredibly disturbing to me.  But by yesterday morning when whatever spark we had seen in Sheba last Friday (when we had taken her to the vet for a visit that we had expected to be her last on Thursday of last week) was gone, we knew it was the right thing to do.  And when I say the spark was gone, it was totally and completely gone.

The process of helping the dog along her way to death seemed pretty straightforward.  She was already so tired and in what finally looked like such pain that she could barely get up to walk.  My sons and I will have stories to tell about a ramp on our steps for the last two days of her life.  Not quite a MacGyver moment, but definitely a bit of ingenuity.  

I did get her up from the spot she'd found in the sun early yesterday afternoon to sit nearer a place where I could sit and just pet her until the vet arrived.  The vet had what looked like supplies for the process inside (in particular a blanket to put the dog on in case she urinated or defecated upon death), but since she was outside and looked pretty much at peace already, the tech and the vet decided just to perform the process where she was.  When she was given the injection for the sedative, she didn't even fight the tech holding her mouth closed.  More than anything else we'd seen the past several days, the complete lack of fighting back showed that our dog was ready.  Last week on Friday at the vet's office she still needed to be muzzled.  Whatever declining path she was on was simply interrupted for one trip to the vet and a glorious weekend over which she got up and walked around one last time--eating freshly cooked meat and lots of treats.  Reminding us of the incredible dog she had been and the part of our family she was for about ten years.

So, while today's reading was not on the list of things I'd planned to blog about before Easter--usually a time to celebrate new life--I looked for references to dogs or animals in the Bible.  There are some obvious ones such as several in Genesis.  But I stumbled upon Job 12: 7-10

But now ask the beasts to teach you, the birds of the air to tell you;
Or speak to the earth to instruct you, and the fish of the sea to inform you.
Which of all these does not know that the hand of God has done this?
In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mortal flesh.

Now, it is important to realize the context of this passage.  Job is a book in which a man has much taken away and is struggling with the reason for suffering.  This passage is about looking for answers to why people who don't follow God were prosperous and the Catholic bible footnote describes this as "a bitter parody of the power of God."  

But if we take these verses for what they are, they remind us of two things.  Animals can teach us a lot.  And this passage raises an interesting question about souls.

First, what can we learn from animals?  Dogs are quite loyal.  While Sheba was one of the most stubborn dogs we've ever met (she could still fight against going where you wanted her to go even in her weakest moment until the very very end), she was incredibly loyal to us and incredibly protective of us.  She was a wonderful companion.  She would sit with me.  She would sit and wait for me.  She helped me in my return to a healthy lifestyle (of exercise) starting in 2006.  I will be forever in debt to her for needing to be walked so far when we first got her.  I remember walking a 10K distance with her once.  She was "all in" when it came to my family.  And that sometimes caused us grief.  She bit a worker at a kennel one time--we thought the worker behaved pretty stupidly to provoke her, but nevertheless, my dog earned a reputation there and we never returned.  She barked an awful lot even when we tried to get her to calm down.  She once killed a mouse--seeming to be bothered that it was usually the cat's job.  She chased many squirrels out of our yard, and we think that she kept woodpeckers away from our kids playground equipment until last summer when she was kenneled for a week and we found a lot more damage that had ever occurred before.  She also taught patience.  Not 100%--when she needed to go out, she really needed to go out.  But when it came to waiting for dinner or waiting for a walk, she just sat.  And looked.  And waited.  And she taught us, at the end, the importance of just letting go.  To the degree that a dog known when it is time, yesterday she did.  But as one last sign of her stubbornness the sedative didn't put her to sleep.  She got very calm, but was still awake as the vet and the tech began the process of finding the vein for the final med to bring her peace.

Second, what about souls?  Here, the Catholic church teaches that animals do not have souls.  Yet, the one verse in Job says, "In his hand is the soul of every living thing."  And, there are many ideas about dogs (or pets in general) going to heaven.  Several people sent me a poem about the Rainbow Bridge--which is another interesting link to other parts of life as my kids' elementary school uses the concept of a rainbow bridge to welcome children to elementary school.  Whether my dog has a soul or not--I don't want to debate Catholic theology at the moment.  But my dog clearly had a living spirit.  It was clearly alive and motivating her.  And, as she breathed her last, I envisioned her spirit, finally set free from being trapped in a declining body.  Getting up and running.  Running to chase the squirrels and the birds.  Running to great the next door neighbor dogs.  Running to bark at a dog in the back alley or a dog being walked out front.  Running ahead on a walk. Running--running--running.  Living.  Exuberant.  Welcoming.  Everything that is positively associated with dog.  And running off to a place where she can be free, safe, comfortable, and at peace.

I cried yesterday.  I've been tearing up as I write this.  I'm sure I'll cry again.  Even my sixteen year old--who was completely trying to hold it together--posted a picture of our dog on his FB page.  It was hard to cry as we prepared to bury her yesterday.  Digging a sufficiently deep whole is hard work.  But we all worked together, and we all were together as we finally laid her to rest.  For a family drawn in so many different directions so much of the time, it completely brought us together.  Will that togetherness and unity last? We shall see.

In conclusion, this morning was a weird wake-up.  Every morning for the past ten years, I have awakened to feed the dog, provide her some water, open the door, and let her out.  I've had the chance to greet her and be greeted by her.  I've had a chance to pet her.  I already miss that.  I think even the cats do too.

No comments:

Post a Comment