A Song has Ended

lyric christmasSix months of life with someone you love, is too brief. Far too brief.

Only last June I invited you to share our joy with the adoption into our family of Lyric, a border collie mix.

Tragically, last night the precious girl passed away. And our family is now dealing with the shock and grief that are such a painful (but inescapable) part of loving the pets who join our families.

After Lyric had been with us for several months, we saw evidence (excessive salivation and frantic, happy racing around the house) of a health concern. When we later witnessed a seizure that lasted just a minute or two, it was nearly as traumatic to us as it was to her. That feeling of helplessness is horrible, isn’t it?

Visits to the vet resulted in the suspicion that it may have been caused by the mushrooms that grow abundantly in the Pacific Northwest forest where we live. (This has been a particularly favorable year to all forms of fungi, and this is a fairly common cause of canine seizures.)

We took precautions to minimize her exposure to that source, but she had several more seizures, weeks apart. Our two vets said that if she experienced a “cluster” of seizures, there were some drugs we could try. However, we never saw any indications of that, so we remained in a monitoring status.

Tragically, late last night, while lying beside me as I was writing, she began what became a relentless series of attacks on her system. She briefly stabilized between each seizure, but they grew longer and more severe. Finally, her strong heart (mercifully) surrendered, and she was gone.

C.S. Lewis was writing about the death (and resurrection) of human beings in his essay “Some Thoughts,” but his words about the alien nature of death resonate with what I am feeling today.

Of all men, we hope most of death [as in, not being the end of all, but a passage to an even more real life]; yet nothing will reconcile us to—well, its unnaturalness. We know that we were not made for it; we know how it crept into our destiny as an intruder; and we know Who has defeated it.

Because Our Lord is risen we know that on one level it is an enemy already disarmed; but because we know that the natural level also is God’s creation we cannot cease to fight against the death which mars it, as against all those other blemishes upon it, against pain and poverty, barbarism and ignorance. Because we love something else more than this world we love even this world better than those who know no other.

Animals, of course, don’t share humanity’s souls. But when you gaze into those love-filled, adoring eyes of your dog, only someone spiritually blind would fail to recognize there is a precious spark within.

I have written in the past about the possibility of God restoring our pets to us in heaven. I won’t belabor that possibility here. After all, it’s merely conjecture. But, in these moments of grief, many find some small comfort in the possibility of God restoring to life these beloved, and innocent, victims of humanity’s disobedience in the Garden.

I began my first post about Lyric with these words:

Last night a new member joined our family. Her name is musical. We didn’t choose it; her previous family did. But we think it fits and she’ll live up to it.

It was for far too short a time, but Lyric definitely did live up to the beauty of her name.

61 thoughts on “A Song has Ended

  1. Ouch. I am so sorry for your loss. She looks like she was a very fine dog, and I’m sure you gave her a fine life in your home. Six months is a brutally short sojourn, though. Best to you and your family.

  2. Oh dear, now I’m crying into my coffee in public! What a trauma you have been through, and your precious Lyric. If dogs are in heaven I’m sure she’ll be there. Blessings and comfort to your family at this time….from dog-lover Ros!

  3. I’m so sorry. I fully understand the unexpected loss of a pet, and my heart goes out to you and your family. I hope you’ll be well comforted in the sadness that would be expected. Blessings to you…

    1. It’s true that when there death is unexpected, it’s harder. Also true that when we are able to be with them it’s better (harder for us, but a precious, final gift to them).

    1. Thank you. I think that’s the difference between sympathy (a wonderful thing, in and of itself) and empathy, which can truly relate to the experience. It’s a very rare thing to possess genuine empathy, without having shared an experience.

    1. Now there’s a thought worthy of discussion. That animals recognize the quality of human souls and then (potentially) share in them in some fashion. The way St. Francis is portrayed, in harmony with the creatures of the forest, comes to mind. While in college, Delores and I had a cat who used to come and lie in the very center of the room when the members of a Bible study we hosted would pray. It was as though she were basking in glory of the praise being offered as we conversed with her Creator.

      1. There are perhaps ways of knowing and being beyond the human cognitive. I wouldn’t go to war over the idea, or start a religion, but use it as a reminder of our humanity in creation context.

      2. oh, what sparks this idea has set fire to – corners of illumination? perhaps – but certainly moments for deeper inquiry! oh, thank you.

  4. I know just how heart rending it can be to lose a pet. I lost a cat I had for years. She’d been feral when I’d received her as a “pet” and it took months to tame her. I think it was partly because we formed a special bond during that process that losing her was so difficult for me. I wrote about that loss in a blog post entitled “On Grief”: http://mgpiety.org/2012/11/02/on-grief/

    1. The more deeply we love, the more painful the loss. C.S. Lewis wrote at length about that in A Grief Observed. I hope that you healed enough that you’ve found another kitten to love. (As for just how feral cats can become, I commend you on being able to civilize her to the point where she felt safe enough to become “domesticated.” Quite a challenge, that.)

  5. When I read your post last night, my heart cracked a bit. It will be a year in March since we said ‘good-bye’ to one dog, (I wrote about him here: http://commonchapters.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/affairs-of-the-heart/) and only the acquisition of another one eased the sting at all. (I wrote about that here: http://commonchapters.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/playing-the-odds/) I’ve thought for a long time now that the Lord especially equips dogs & horses for the touch of a master’s hand — for companionship, for assistance, for lessons in loyalty and guardianship. I am so sorry for your loss. <3

    1. I know what you say of dogs is true. I suspect it is of horses, as well. I’ve never had the joy of being around them that much, but when I’ve been introduced to them (including horses used as companions in a drug rehab setting) I have sensed their unique attributes. And, the success in their use in working with the challenged is testimony enough.

  6. Becky

    Your “possibility of God restoring our pets” comforted me greatly when we had to have our 14 year old shetland sheepdog put to sleep 10 months ago. Thank you. He was my constant companion, moving with me from Texas to Minnesota when I married the love of my life 8 years ago. He helped me through all the adjustments of this transition, and through some major health crises along the way, too. These creatures are precious gifts from God. May our great Creator comfort you now as you walk through this loss.

    1. I am glad you found the words comforting. I have no doubt that with God all things are possible, and since it would bring his children such profound joy, well, we shall see…

  7. Heartfelt condolences. I also recently lost an adopted dog, it is devastating, isn’t it? I found the hardest part was thinking about the abuse and neglect that Mack suffered before he came to us and then just as he starts to have a good life it is over for him. :-(
    We have just adopted Hamish because despite the tears there is always another dog that needs us.

    1. Your thoughts were similar to our own. Lyric had enjoyed a very brief period with a wonderful foster mom who was almost unable to part with her. But before that, we don’t know what her original life what like. What we do know, without any doubt, is that these past six months she relished exploring the forests and learning to trust and love extended family. It’s so true that there is always another precious pup needing our affection… but we need to wait a while for our hearts to be ready to welcome them.

      1. I agree that it takes time to be ready for the next dog, we waited 5 months from Mack’s death before we got Hamish, it would have been longer but Indy our Collie has never been an only dog and he needed a companion. I look forward to reading about your next rescue dog, when the time is right. :-)

      2. I hear what you’re saying about Indy needing a companion. Our situation, curiously, was a bit different. Both of our two dogs were inclined to prefer being a single mistress of the domain. They had to sort a little of that out when they first met, but they grew to love each other. One of best memories is how the two of them would play together, including the very afternoon of Lyric’s death.

  8. I am very sorry to read about the traumatic death of Lyric. To lose your dog like that is devastating and hurts for a long time even when you think you have moved on. Our border collie was 18 when he died, he was tired and ready to go but my mum’s lurcher was only two when she got very sick with a stomach problem and her death still hurts. The unexpectedness that they don’t have their normal life span and their suffering leaves an unforgettable mark.

    1. It is much easier to say goodbye when they’ve had a long, full and happy life. That’s the way our two previous border collies passed. Our remaining dog (adopted about six years ago) is aging well, but we know that as long as she lives, odds are she will predecease us. Their loves remains though, a lasting gift to each of us.

  9. Thank you for liking a post on my blog so I might become aware of your blog.

    Your experience with Lyric sounds like a validation of my remark regarding the health and life-span of purebreds. With so many breeders not caring how close bloodlines are, the greater the risk involved when people obtain an animal from a pet store.

    Here in the States we call such breeders puppy mills. While there are laws against such practices, enforcing those laws are not very high on the priority list among those who are charged with enforcement. Even mistreatment of large animals, such as horses, seemingly goes nearly unabated.

    Looking forward to reviewing more of your blog, especially the categories regarding church history.

    Grace and peace to you and yours.

    1. Puppy mills are sad places, indeed. But the products of these farms… the precious little loves and their mistreated parents… do need our love and rescue. Would that the laws prohibiting animal abuse were enthusiastically enforced.

  10. Lyric picked a good home – looking at her smile, it’s obvious she was so happy. She was sent to you for a reason – even when she started having problems, you kept her and treasured her. She was safe and loved.
    I had a dog that developed seizures that progressively got worse. There is nothing as desperate and helpless as watching those. My heart goes out to you and all of the household.
    It’s said that once in Heaven, we will be provided with everything – and know total love. He knows our hearts – have to believe that dear companions will be part of that.

    1. Being helpless is terribly painful. And when we know human beings who suffer from seizure disorders, we often feel the same thing. Fortunately for people, though, there are some very successful treatment regimens available for most causes. However, there are cases where that’s not true, and even when treated, the specter of the affliction often lingers in the background.

  11. i know how much that hurts…i lost my little Snowy just few months back and it hurts so bad…
    Dogs are so loving and the best thing about the world…they dont judge..all they want is to give as much as love as possible…
    love the name Lyric… beautiful :)

  12. I am so very sorry for your loss. Your post was beautifully written and hit home and brought tears to my eyes. I do believe that we will see our beloved pets again at some point and I hope that the healing for you and your family happens gently, holding on to some lovely memories of your pup.
    Lyric looks like a beautiful creature, I hope you know in your heart that she is whole and no longer suffering but scampering about in large meadows in heaven :)

    1. That’s how I tend to feel about it. They are so very innocent, and true to their loving nature. Even when abused and wary of people, they yearn to be our gentle companions, and there’s no joy like helping to rehabilitate a wounded animal.

  13. I’m so very, very sorry for your loss. Having lost my own Zephyr six months ago, my heart goes out to you. I, too, trust and hope that we will meet our beloved pets in heaven. Our pets add so much to our lives, but when they leave they take a piece of our hearts. May God comfort you and your family.

    1. My condolences to you also. Your comment makes me think that yes, they do take a piece of our heart when they pass… but, by virtue of their “adding” to our lives, there is a HUGE net gain.

  14. Oh grief and her attendant suffering – how she sneaks in when we least suspect her – and yet — lets us know how whole are hearts really are. I am so sorry for your loss. – and it is so often that i find myself ,even years later, a familiar lighting gives a corner of a cushion, a shadow under the table in the dining room and i look for those who are no longer here. They’re are so many, having lived with others from a young age. I know they are not lost, it is i who am – if only for a moment – and then i remember the Grace that includes their being present with me and once again am found. Best blessings to you and your family.

    1. Just a moment ago, I thought I spotted Lyric out of the corner of my eye. I’ve caught myself ready to call out for her several times today as well. I treasure my memories of departed pets, but find these initial (unbidden) impressions of Lyric’s presence and awarenesses of her absence particularly saddening.

  15. I’ve experienced something like this. It was not my pet, but the pet of a friend, and one I loved very much. I was just a child, too. You have my deepest sympathy.
    Not to begin a theological debate. I know people feel strongly on this subject. But I am not convinced that animals don’t have souls, or at least something akin to them. That is one area where I don’t quite agree with Lewis’s assessment. That is one thing I love about Lewis, though. I get the feeling that he wouldn’t be upset that I disagree.
    Love and blessings to you and your family.

    1. It’s not really Lewis whose opinion about animal souls most of us take a cue from. It’s the Scriptures themselves. There is no suggestion at all that they do. There is, however, the express mention of animals being present in the new creation. I explore some reasons why I think the Lord may bless us with the continued presence of our beloved pets in the second link above.

      1. Ah, I didn’t mean you take your beliefs from Lewis, but rather that your beliefs might align more with his, in that area, than mine do. I’m no expert in scripture, so I may be wrong. I only began enjoying scripture a few years ago and, prior to that, I fear I didn’t read it much. But I’ve not seen anything that suggests to me that animals have or don’t have souls, which I take to mean that it isn’t something scripture is concerned with. From what I see, scripture seems to be all about the journey of humanity, the character of God, and the relationship between us and Him. In short, the rest of creation is in the prerifery.

        In order to speak, in depth, about any subject, the focus must be relatively narrow, and I think it is that way with the Bible. It tells us what we need to know about ourselves and about our Creator. It even speaks to us on an individual level. But if it spoke of everything, I think it would overwhelm and confuse us. In the absence of information, I take hope that I’m not wrong about the rest of creation.
        …Here’s where I admit to being, in all probability, a little insane. From my childhood, I’ve empathized with pretty much everything. I have a really hard time killing a plant (so as a gardener, weeding is a struggle, and I am terrible at getting rid of a plant without finding it “a good home” as if it were a puppy). Given that hypersensitivity, I’m sure you can imagine that the thought of even wild animals and plants living and dying in this world, and then becoming nothing, is painful to me. So where non-crazy people may reasonably hope to see their pets hereafter, I hope that God’s mercy and promised revival of creation gives all living things renewal, not just as a type, but as themselves. I don’t just want to see my pets, but I want to see the grass-snake I caught a few months back and the great-horned owls that hang out above my house as well.

        So, that is where I am coming from. If I didn’t think God’s mercy extended to “the least of these,” then I would have a really hard time eating anything, because I’d be crying over a bowl of spinnach. …like I said, a bit crazy. My beliefs being as they are, I can eat spinnach and be at peace. ;)

      2. You’re right. The Scriptures focus on humanity, but there are many, many references to nature and creation. In Genesis 2, for example, we’re familiar with the oft maligned (and misinterpreted) passage about “subduing the earth.” However, it also says we are to “work and keep” the Garden (verse 15), which uses the same Hebrew word as the blessing where the Lord himself “keeps” (guards, protects, watches over us).

        I share your regard for wild animals, but limit my compassion (admittedly somewhat arbitrarily) based on the sentience of the creatures. Mammals, for example, I feel sorry for. Crocodiles, not so much. Mosquitoes, not at all. The same for plants. I like to find new homes for plants, preferring not to throw them in the compost pile, but I never mourn for their passing. Well, thinking of something magnificent like an ancient redwood, I am sorry for its loss, but I not at all in any sense related to “its” perspective.

  16. True, I didn’t mean to imply that the rest of creation, or our relationship to the rest of creation, was completely ignored in scripture.

    At least I recognize that empathizing with dandelions isn’t logical. It could be worse. ;) Perhaps I should clarify that I don’t think trees have “feelings” in the way humans do. I don’t think I anthropomorphize spinach. I just can’t bring myself to assume that the human way of feeling is the only one. It may be, and a gnat or an azalea might not have any experience to speak of, but what if? Plants and gnats certainly react to their environment, and if a plant has something comparable to pain, how would we know? That’s the reasoning, anyway. Not sure if that makes me more or less loopy.

    In practical life, of course, I’ve had to “get over” this to a great extent. Pain and death are part of existence here, and when I know for certain that people suffer, and some animals, my obligation to them over the possible suffering of other things takes precedent. My doubt and hope for the more uncertain things, therefore, stays with me, but is of lower priority. Even so, I think that doubt makes me a bit more respectful of the world around me, and perhaps that is a good result, crazy or not.

  17. Just saw this post, Rob, and wanted to tell you how sorry I am. The loss of a pet is hard at any time, but especially so in such a way.Lyric looks like a wonderful girl and every dog lover’s heart is breaking with yours. Erica

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