I wrote the following post one year ago, on February 11, 2022, when we thought our beloved dog Missy was nearing death. In God’s kindness to answer our pleading, He brought her out of that near-death experience and gave us another full year with her — one in which we made a big move across country, and she was with us as we settled and as I work remotely. Now, in His perfect timing, Missy was laid to rest this week with great peace while we saw God’s hand in every detail. I had not published this a year ago because she lived. But I return to it today, and it’s all as true now as it was then.
Missy is our pandemic dog. It wasn’t planned by us that way; it’s just how it worked out.
I’ve written here about the way in which she came to us. It was November 2019, when my son got her. It was March 2020 after Covid sent college students back home that she arrived in our home and never left. My son’s college was not able to resume in-person classes in Fall 2020, so they both remained with us while he finished his last semester. My daughter took a semester off in Spring 2021, so she also spent a 9 month stretch of time at home unexpectedly. Together, as a family during Covid, this little dog united us, brought us joy, and served as a focal point. We surely enjoyed Missy collectively, but she also meant something to us individually.
For me, I am the one who spent the most time in the house during Covid, working from home. The kids came and went, be it college or work, and were in and out. My husband worked from home the first year, but had various job transitions and writing projects that brought change and new challenges, and he traveled off and on during Covid to get away from the feeling of being shut in the house! My life remained most unchanged, sitting alone in the den on the sofa with my laptop open, working throughout the day, with Missy snuggled in close beside me. If I didn’t have the computer on my lap, she would be there. In the quietness of the house, it was Missy and me.
I had dogs growing up. Every time we lost one, the grief was great. I had vowed never to have another one. It wouldn’t be worth it to feel that pain of losing them. And yet, Missy was basically placed into our hearts and home, and we all loved her. She became part of the family. I liked to say we used to have a house where a dog could live, but over time, it became like a dog house where people could live! We had adapted so much to her and whatever she faced as she aged.
Yes, the pain is great, but the love is greater. I would do it again in a heartbeat because the love she brought, the comfort and joy, the unity of our family around this little dog. It was unequaled.
I think grief over a dog is a shadow grief of larger griefs over loved ones in life. It gives us a small taste of what that will be like to lose someone. And death is perhaps the greatest reminder this earth is not what it should be. We weren’t meant to die. And yet it’s an inescapable part of life. We’ve never seen that more clearly these last two years with Covid. Death, in one way or another, comes for all of us. But not without hope for those in Christ.
It’s just as the Bible tells us. There is sin, pain, and suffering in this world. We both experience this and contribute to it! But we have a Savior who identifies with our suffering and weakness, who humbly served us and gave his very life for us, to reconcile us to Himself. He is in the process of making all things new, whereby one day, there will be no more pain and suffering. So we feel the pain and remember it is not the end of our story. Through it, God is ushering in new things. I’m so thankful to be part of His story and the grand unfolding of life with the hope of eternal life ahead. Death is but an entry way back to life for those who are in Christ.
Now animals are different. They are not made in the image of God like humans. But they are a very significant and important part of His creation. Who knows what the new heavens and new earth will be like one day? I like to hope our beloved pets might be there. Maybe that is sentimental, but there are enough hints in Scripture to let us know it’s possible, and either way, it will be good! (See Randy Alcorn’s book Heaven and his chapters about “Animals.” You’ll be surprised that there’s a lot more in Scripture about them than we might know.)
Though it seemed Missy arrived unexpectedly on the scene of our lives, I know there was nothing accidental about it. She was brought to us by God, on purpose and with purpose, and meant something special and different to each one in our family, while we collectively were blessed. She was a gift from God during a season of need, given out of love by a good God who can fully be trusted. Missy was planned in His heart for us, and we rejoice over every moment spent with her.