Losing your dog is hard enough…but in the midst of a pandemic?
Having your dog die is like losing your child, best friend, love, confidant, and protector in one fell swoop.
That’s tough enough.
Having your dog die too young is tragic.
Having your dog die too young in the midst of a worldwide pandemic is awful.
Having your dog die too young in the midst of a worldwide pandemic while you are living alone is horrific.
Having your dog die too young in the midst of a worldwide pandemic while you are living alone during the holidays is unfair.
Having your dog die too young in the midst of a worldwide pandemic while you are living alone during the holidays, and can only watch helplessly as cancer steals his life from inside out, is excruciating.
Having your dog die as all this is happening while also shouldering your children’s grief is piling on.
I couldn’t handle it if it wasn’t for Jesus.
To be sure, I am grateful for loving support from my friends, family, and colleagues. But most of them don’t really understand. If you haven’t owned a dog or aren’t a dog person, you can’t.
Because from the start, Badger was my dog. He was (and will be) the only one I’ve raised from a pup.
He was our family pet, but he was so much more than that.
He was a baby. A son. A playmate. A comforter. A guardian. An entertainer. A travel buddy. A babysitter. A friend.
Do you let your guard down with anyone more than you do around your dog? Do you think twice if your dog sees you naked, or playing air guitar, or hears you belting out songs in the shower?
Does any other living being greet you with such unbridled joy when you walk in the door? Every. Single. Time.
Does anyone — even your family — dote and depend on you with the fervor of your dog?
Is there anyone else in your life who’s always there for you? Who loves you unconditionally? Who hangs on your every word?
Is there anyone else who’s always ready for a hug?
The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh. Unlike the English “soul” that denotes our inner self, nephesh encompasses the totality of a living being — heart, mind, personality, inner desires and feelings.
Its scope includes animals. In fact the first use of nephesh, in Genesis 1:20, refers to animals.
So Badger is more than a dog. He’s a soul. And his life mattered.
He was with us for eight years, four months, and 10 days.
* * *
Now, in the midst of worldwide pandemic, in the dead of winter approaching Christmas, I try not to focus on the empty spaces Badge used to fill.
Instead I close my eyes and imagine his soul set free.
I see him bounding across gold meadows, chasing deer and rabbits and fetching balls.
I see him leading a hike on a wooded trail, veering off through the trees after a squirrel.
I see him stretched out on his stomach in a sea of grass, a stick between his paws and a huge smile on his face.
And I see him standing in the shallows at water’s edge with a spit-striped snout, eyes dancing, tail wagging, loudly demanding someone toss a rock he can retrieve from the water.
Hey I’m finding one for you buddy — the biggest, most perfect rock you’ve ever fetched.
Hang tight, my cherished nephesh. I’ll bring it when I come.