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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

All dogs go to heaven

This morning I learned that my friend Katie’s dog died. Max was a loyal and loving puppy who, in his 14 years of life, brought much joy to Katie, her brother, and her mom.

I have so many fond memories of him, too. Like one summer night we all gathered on their deck. Max came upon someone’s frozen daiquiri. Not long later, the poor dog was drunk and practically stumbling down the stairs.

The news brought me to a bit of a reflection on pets—these little creatures we bring into our lives that instantly become part of our families—and on life. (Bear with me while I get a bit philosophical—or skip this post all together, if you’d rather).

I’m not a real mommy yet, but I imagine the way I love Oliver is akin (on a much smaller scale) to the way you fall in love with your child, from the moment you lay eyes on their cherubic cheeks and tiny toes. For most pet owners, they truly are another member of your family.

We bring these animals so deliberately into our lives, knowing that by nature they’ll be outlived by our children, our careers, our mid-life crises. They’ll be next to us through some of life’s happiest and saddest moments. But not all of them. We’ll mark periods in our life by the animals that helped us through them, because the furry companion who was by my side when I graduated from high school will not be the one who’s by my side when my own children do the same.

Yet, we love them still the same. We choose them. We bring them into our lives knowing the inevitable, that in 10, 12, 14 years we’ll be heartbroken when their poor little heart gives out.

It makes me think, why in the world would we do that to ourselves? Of course it’s because (in my opinion) their love and companionship—whether only for a little while or longer—far outweigh the outcome. It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, isn’t it?

Lots of things in life are that way. There’s no surprise ending. Like it or not, we are all going to die someday. But that shouldn’t stop us from experiencing joy and happiness and love with the time we do have. In fact, it should push us to do it more—more often, more generously, more deliberately. Risks are worth taking because we get one chance, one life.

I know that many people, myself included, have their faith tested in the wake of pain and misfortunes (whether it’s the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, or even seemingly small stresses). It seems so dumbfounding that a loving God can let terrible things happen to good people. But I think, in some ways, we can learn from those trying times. It seems as though to have the best things in life, we must also learn to survive the bad. To know the depth of love, we must also understand the pain of loss. To realize the magnitude of kindness, we must witness cruelty. And to truly appreciate the gift of life, we must experience death.

If seeing the dirt and grime of life can make the beauty of it even brighter, then is the lesson learned? Is it worth it? And is it fair?

They’re not questions I, or anyone else, can answer. So we just keep going, doing our best, and learning as we go.

I’m realizing now that there was no real point to this post, no groundbreaking insights or life-changing wisdom. I guess I just needed to think “out loud.” Thanks for putting up with my ramblings!  

Anyway, enough of the heavy stuff. Happy Wednesday friends – we’re half way to the weekend!

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