A biblical perspective of pet loss
By Kara Petroske
As my youngest daughter clutched our sick and dying puppy; he took his last breath. Paige sobbed, asking why did he have to go through this! Why did he have to die!
I didn’t want to just smooth things over, giving simple answers that will only cause unfulfilled questions to continue to be asked.
While wiping my own tears, I explained that because of the fall of man; (man choosing sin over God’s commands) sickness and death did not just befall on people, but also fell on all of creation. Romans 8:22 KJV
When I was very young; dad brought home our first puppy. He was a labrador retriever. Mom wasn't too happy, but accepted him as our family pet and we named him “Buck” after Buck Rogers. We were blessed to spend 15 years with our furry playful guy. But after he had fell ill with cancer twice; my parents felt that it would be best to put him to rest.
Put him to rest? Like sleeping? What exactly did that mean to me. I was 15 but I hadn’t yet thought about it. I had not yet lost something or someone dear to me who had been a part of my life for many years. I accepted the fact that he needed to leave us. We took some photos together hugging him as he was.
As it became the time to take Buck to the vet; my parents refused to let my brother and I come to the procedure. My mom may have felt that if we did not see him die then we would not need to face the painful reality of it.
I knew it as she told me when at age 16; she said her dad died. She felt unaffected by the news because she did not grasp what had happened. It was only until she saw him at his funeral that he was indeed dead, that he was really gone. That was very painful for her, as grief surely is. That was her way of protecting us.
Because of this example; I could understand that she felt she was protecting us from the pain and reality of the grieving process. Some people may do better this way. Some desperately need closure or they will be bitter. God does provide answers. Even though sickness and death is a reality of human life; there is still a cycle of life that God did put in place.
Speaking of bitter; I did not feel closure by just saying goodbye to Buck and I may have if my parents could have at-least brought him home to bury him. Every person and child grieves differently but we cannot shelter our kids from grief. They decide how to receive closure. Some kids do need a long, painful goodbye or they will feel robbed of it.
Grief helps us feel the pain others go through when they experience similar loss. That is exactly what empathy is.
After the death of my dog 25+ years ago it never crossed my mind to get another dog. I did not consider or want another dog after that. In fact I would roll my eyes at “dog people”, being repelled by them and how people treated their dogs like human babies. What weirdos!
Fast forward 20 years, God had other plans for this animal lover. A poodle named Katie fell in my lap from a dear friend who had passed away. Here we are today; making dreams come true.
Raising our own pups we have had to face the reality of pet loss much more frequently than the average family. Fortunately there is so much more joy in life and knowing how those furry babies are changing lives. It is totally worth it!
We are often asked,”how do you let these babies leave you?” I let our clients know that we go into it knowing our purpose. This this is what we are meant for; to complete families in this present day!
Dogs are not just cute; but help give emotional comfort, anxiety relief, hunt down missing children and fight crime. There is nothings quite like “man’s best friend”. Since we are selective in the homes we place our babies; we then feel that pup we raised is going to a worthy home.
As Paige bawling her eyes out asking why we had to lose a precious baby; I reminded her of a thing that I have explained to them many times. Although I do believe there will be animals in heaven for us to enjoy; assuming the pet will be in heaven and we can see them there is not my choice of providing an understanding the role in death in the animal kingdom.
What we chose to explain to our kids is that God has a plan for animals when they die.
The bible says that the wise man cares for the life of his beast. Proverbs 12:10
Since animals are a gift from God for us to love and enjoy, at the very least we care for them and their needs. That means providing food, shelter, nutrition and emotional needs which vary from species to species. We give to them because they give to us. Their needs come before ours.
I told Paige that once our pets (and other animals in the wild) leave us; God created a natural process where the physical body of that pet will nurture the earth.
I said, “Paige, do you remember how you learned about Native Americans; how they knew that fertilization was so important?”
They hunted fish to plant next to crops so that it would in turn nurture their crops and provide sustainment. Native Americans are all about not being wasteful with animals. They were wise and knew their value! In turn the earth was blessed and yielded much fruit.
The body of that pet will help the life above it receive nourishment so that it can be strong. As we eat from that tree later on, or see the beautiful flowers it produces; we know that precious pet contributed to making this tree thrive and in turn us also!
We take comfort in that memory. They are not far away in some untouchable place. This picture of the cycle of life helped my children to understand and have closure.
Paige kept the blanket she held the pup in. She is very sentimental. I so thankful that she feels very deeply. She has never grown accustomed to losing babies. She particularly and especially loves the tiny puppies. Those are sadly, the more fragile ones we lose more often. She took that pup to bed. Hey, everyone grieves differently-I had no problem with that provided we could bury him the next day.
Other ideas to provide as a sentimental keepsake is a memorial plaque, a lock of hair saved in a locket, a photo keepsake. I have a photo of Buck sitting in a child’s rocking chair. It was so adorable and makes me smile! It is just a regular 4x6 photo my mom took-no frills.
After an event like this, will usually have some comfort food and snuggles to help ease the pain of pet loss.
As a wise woman had said to me, “I guess the bottom line is, there’s only so much we can control. My mother always told me nothing here on earth is perfect…perfection is in heaven.” ~ Patricia