Lessons from my Dog

We got her Christmas of 1998 and named her Silver Belle. Sally and I weren’t crazy about getting a Siberian Husky but it was what our 16-year-old daughter had always wanted. And being the wonderful codependent parents that we were, we figured we could perhaps use this little fur ball of a puppy to entice Jolee into hanging around the house more often. So Belle came home with us that Christmas and life around our place would never be the same.

Besides all the usual adjustments of house training a puppy, we also acquired other new challenges. Belle’s soft white fur quickly took a life of it’s own, forming dust bunnies the size of Texas in every nook and cranny of our house and yard. As she grew into doghood, we quickly realized that no food could be left on any countertop space unless it was at least five feet from the ground. Cakes, cookies, steak and lasagna were all fair game if her big wet nose could reach it. We learned that any leather items were considered food to a dog. Belts and wallets were two of her very favorites. Then there were the souvenirs from far away places like China and Africa; who knew that she would eat videotapes and photo albums? She had quite a diverse palette.

But of all the things Belle loved to do (including eating and destroying), her all time favorite was walking her masters. As soon as she saw Sally or me putting on our tennis shoes, she would go berserk with excitement. It was all she could do to contain herself long enough to get her leash attached.

Recently, Belle has started slowing down. A tumor began to appear on her stomach that grew to the size of a grapefruit. But it hasn’t stopped her from wanting to go for long walks. Then early in April, we noticed her limping. She could hardly put any weight on her back right leg. Even still, she wanted to walk.

We’ve spent the past month loving on Belle and crying when no one was looking. The other day, I was up before dawn reading in my chair and she came hobbling in. It was obvious that she was in pain, but she just stood there with her leg trembling.  I encouraged her to lie down and rest, but all she would do was walk in a circle like she was preparing to land; she just couldn’t make herself do it. When she finally did make it down to rest, she would turn her attention to the tumor. She was constantly licking it. We would scold her. We tried putting a t-shirt on her or covering it with bandages, but she still managed to get to her wound.

As I watched her with tears pooling in my eyes, I thought about how much I loved and cared for my dog. I only wished I could convince her to rest and to stop obsessing over her wound. It reminded me of how God must love and care for me. I thought about the 23rd Psalm where it says, “He maketh me lie down in green pastures.” Even though I’m hurting and I’m tired, I still try and stay busy, but God wants me to rest.

Belle is at rest now. Sally took her on a long walk today and even let her off leash. When they got home, she knew it was time. She had licked her tumor until it was raw and bleeding.  The vet had told us that as a pack animal, she would never show signs of pain, but we knew she was.

So, Belle, I just want to thank you for all the fun and happiness you brought our family. You taught us a lot these past thirteen years. You taught us that family was more important than stuff. You taught us to stop and smell, well, just about everything. You taught us no outfit is complete without a layer of dog hair. And you taught us that no one was above getting a nose in his or her crotch. You were the great equalizer.

Belle, take your rest. You were the best dog in the world and you deserve it.