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When I was 21, we had to have my much loved childhood pet dog, Snoopy, put to sleep. We got him when I was 5. It was really hard. So hard, in fact, that I went away for the weekend and had my Dad take him to the vet for the procedure . There was no way I could do it. I still remember saying goodbye through tears to Snoopy when I left that Friday afternoon. Even then, at that age, I thought “One day I may be a Dad and my turn will come to make such a trip to the vet.”
My turn came yesterday.
We had to have our much loved pet Labrador retriever, Cookie, put to sleep. She was a sweet dog that we got before my youngest son, now age 13, was born. Sad times for us all.
As I was getting ready for my day, I began to think “Why get pets at all? You only set yourself up for this kind of sadness!” It was at that time I remembered a quote from C.S. Lewis from his work, The Four Loves:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Love entails risk. Relationships entail risk. Never want to mourn or grieve? Never want to deal with disappointments and disagreements? Then go live by yourself in a cave somewhere.
Loving someone, even a family pet, is worth the risk. More than that, it’s what we were made for. We’re hardwired for relationships. Being made in God’s image means that we, like Him, were made for relating. God has always existed in eternal relationship within Himself as Triune-God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. When we enter into relationships we do what we were designed to do and reflect who He is in those relationships.
Perhaps this is a bit too philosophical on a day to grieve the loss of a sweet natured companion. Cookie will always make me think of another quote as well, this time from Mark Twain:
“Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.”
Paul Bankson is the Senior Pastor of Houston Lake Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Warner Robins, GA. He and his wife, Connie, have three sons. A native of...