My husband likes to say he was our first fight as a married couple. I think that is true, but it has been almost 11 years now and time has blurred and faded my memory. The he I am referring to is that 1 lb ball of fur pictured above. I was a newly wed and really wanted a Yorkie puppy, and my husband was a newly wed that wanted more time with just me before venturing into the world of pets. But he loves me despite myself and bought me a $500 Yorkshire Terrier…wow that was a lot of money, it is a lot of money. I still can’t believe he did it.
It took only a week for even my husband to fall in love with that little guy. He was a great dog, we named him Matty (short for “matrimony”). We took him everywhere we went and missed him when we were gone. It’s a strange thing we do with animals, the way we nurture and love them. I used to put a little sweater on Matty before I would take him outside, he was just so small and would shiver while outdoors in the winter. My dad used to say “Amy, you know it’s a dog, right?”. Yes, I knew, but he was my dog and I loved loving him.
He was a good dog. He didn’t really act like a dog. He didn’t care for other animals (because deep down he didn’t consider himself one), he never tore anything up, he never went to the bathroom in the house, he was just a good dog. He loved us well, and like my husband was reflecting yesterday, he loved us better than we loved him. Because what happens to all animals, happened to Matty….babies arrived. I remember my sister teasing after Ella was born that Matty must be singing to himself the song “Memories”. Poor Matty. He used to curl up with me on the couch while I spent weeks on bed rest with my first pregnancy. He was loyal and his existence was comforting to me. He was a companion, a friend to have around in a time in my life when I didn’t really have a lot of friends. But once our kids arrived, he went from top dog to watching our lives go by on the sidelines. It’s natural I know, in fact, it’s normal. Had it been the other way around, it would have been just wrong. He was a dog and I was a sleep deprived new mom, and my attention was focused on my child…as it should be.
So the years went by and more babies came, but Matty was still there. He was always there. He was always happy to see us, he always greeted us at the door, he always had a sweet kiss on the cheek for us, he was just always there. He loved our kids, though he preferred them as babies, and was always gentle and sweet. He used to play fetch on the beach for hours until he literally could not walk anymore. He loved the beach and he loved a ball. What a great dog he was.
Then he got sick. The doctors said they would have to do exploratory surgery to truly know what was wrong, we weren’t willing to go to extreme measures and so we decided to just wait it out. Waiting it out turned into 2 years and just this week he grew even sicker. Walking became a struggle for him and by Sunday morning he could no longer walk at all. He was panting heavily and clearly struggling to live.
And so it was here. We took him outside to go to the bathroom and literally crows started circling around him overhead. How strange is that? It was salt in a wound, a bitter, sad ending. I ran outside and scooped him up quickly, threw my hands up to vultures circling their prey, and brought him inside for the last time. It was a tearful good-bye. My husband and I started feeling the heavy weight of guilt that was circling us like those crows were circling Matty. Guilt over not having treated him years ago for his sickness, guilt over waiting until now to put him down, guilt over caring so much about a dog when there are people in the world starving to death, guilt that now our girls were crying because they knew their dog was about to die, guilt that we didn’t show him more attention over the last few years of his life, guilt, guilt, more guilt and then sadness.
I decided to stay with the kids while my husband took him to the vet. My husband had a few minutes with him before it was time to say good-bye and he said he gave him a few more chances to stand up, but there was nothing left, he had no more strength. So he held him and told him he loved him and that he had been a good dog. Though he did not deny an urge to tell them to stop right before it was over, he suppressed his urge and he felt his small heart stop beating. It was time, it was peaceful, and now it was over.
Death is a strange thing. It’s strange because we were not created for it. We were not created to say good-bye. We were created to walk and live with our Creator. He is not the Creator of death, but the Creator of life…so for His created beings, death is hard. It is difficult to understand the concept that we are here one moment and then gone the next. But nonetheless, that is the world we live in.
We decided we needed to go to church that morning to get moving again, and I am so glad we did. Aside from a beautiful sermon of redemption, we were able to sit right behind a young woman who just weeks ago lost her husband. It was a very needed reality check and a sweet and kind way that Jesus quickly put things into perspective for us. It was so like my Jesus to be gentle and not condemning. I felt comforted for our small loss and then also tenderly guided to look beyond my small world and circumstance.
And so we move on. There are diapers to be changed and carpools to drive. Life carries on, though the sadness is still lingering. There are bigger issues in the world to turn our attention to, and we haven’t lost sight of that. I hope you understand my words and hear me very plainly say that I am well aware that there are losses and struggles and crosses to bear that do not hold a candle to our sadness we feel now. I do not mean to be unsympathetic or self-centered in my reflections. It is what it is though, there was a sweet dog that our family had and loved for almost 11 years, and now he is gone, and we will miss him.