God’s Healing for Hurting Hearts After the Loss of a Dog (or other pet)
Janet L. DeCaster
Isaiah 61:1 – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,..
Let’s be honest, grief after the death of a dog (or other pet) is real, it’s hard and it hurts. Whether your pet was furry, finny or feathery; losing them to death is just plain sad. In short, pet grief stinks! Particularly now, in 2020, a year of weirdness that just keeps getting weirder. From the Coronavirus pandemic isolation, to social unrest, to contested political elections for those of us in America; our dogs (and other pets) have become even more important to us than usual. Their furry faces and wagging tails have become a little piece of happy in an otherwise wacky world. Losing them seems just a little bit harder this year. It can feel sorta like you have a dog-shaped hole in your soul.
As the author of “Dog Tales & Pup Parables: 31 Devotions for a Dog Lover’s Heart“* ( © 2016, BroadStreet Publishing), I thought that addressing this issue may help someone out there in social-media-land have a little bit more healing in their hurting heart (or help them heal the heart of their child). Having had the unfortunate experience of revisiting the grief involved with the loss of one of my dogs recently, the topic has been on my mind. As always, I write from a Christian perspective with the Bible as my guide.
Stay tuned at the end of the post for practical tips on healing from this type of grief
After my dog, Joy, died in 2019**, I adopted a darling, purebred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy from a local rescue group which specialized in rescuing “underdogs.” My daughters and I named her Penny, because of her beautiful, copper-colored coat. Like the rest of us, Penny had some ‘issues’; and I adopted her knowing full-well that she was imperfect. (not unlike God adopting me into the family of faith, in spite of my issues; but that’s another story for another day) Penny had been rescued from a commercial breeder because she had a dysfunctional gait in her hind legs, one of her eyes had a problem with the cornea, and she was unusually small. I adopted her because I wanted to give her the best life she could have.
This tiny, copper-colored, silky ball of six-pound love soon stole our hearts. Penny’s wobbly gait, meant that she could only walk for short distances. Hence, I found a used dog stroller on-line and pushed her around the local park on daily walks with Sadie. She would bark with glee every time she heard the computer-generated voice on my smart-phone’s exercise App, knowing it meant a ride in her stroller to the park! What Penny lacked in mobility and stature, she made up for with a huge heart of love.
Suddenly, earlier this fall, Penny became totally unable to stand. After a thorough exam by her regular Vet and an Orthopedic Veterinary specialist, the doctors refused to do surgery, suspecting that she had a major neurological issue. I prayed for her healing, and also for wisdom in her care. A further exam by a Veterinary Neurologist confirmed that Penny had a congenital spinal and skull malformation (probably due to inbreeding). She faced a life without mobility on painkillers and steroids. Finally, I made the excruciatingly difficult decision to have Penny euthanized by our Vet.
After she died, I felt awful and like I had somehow let her down, even though she had put all her trust in me. Those first few days and week following her death were really sad! I also felt terribly sorry for our other dog Sadie (and still do), because I couldn’t explain where Penny went and now she is alone.
Penny’s Special Role:
I could regret having adopted Penny, due to the extra challenges her care posed or her short lifespan. Upon reflection, however, I realized that I fulfilled my goal of giving her the best life she could have had. I have also sensed the Holy Spirit’s special revelation about Penny’s unique role in my life, during a very challenging time. In the course of her lifetime, I experienced two major losses of (human) loved ones. One of my older brothers, Paul, died very unexpectedly in the summer of 2019. My mother died earlier this year. I still miss them both! As I looked at photographs recently, while grieving Penny, I saw several photos with she, my mother and my brother. They made me smile. We three had a mutual love of animals. I suddenly recognized that my tiny dog had brought happiness to both my brother and to my mother in their last months of life. My imperfect Penny was like a perfect, heaven-sent gift to me and my family at the right moment in time. I am thankful for those memories and the photos that helped capture them. They have brought me a lot of peace. She was a wonderful dog, and I’m so glad for our time together.
John 14: 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid
Why grief after the death of a dog (or other pet) can be so hard:
Suggestions for healing hurting hearts after the loss of a dog:
( or helping you help your child’s heart)
Isaiah 53:4(a)…He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows
God’s word contains healing balm for the human soul. The following passages contain wonderful promises from the Bible that you may find comforting for personal study. Isaiah 53: 1-5, Isaiah 61: 1-3, Luke 4: 17-21, John 14: 25-27, Psalm 23, Psalm 147:3, Psalm 30:2
God Knows, He Cares & He’s Listening:
God is not too busy to care about the smallest things that concern us, including the death of our dog (or other pet). His Word says in Matthew 10: 29, “What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.“. God knows and cares when our pets die and he loves us. It was the Holy Spirit who brought me peace after Penny died. He is also willing to heal your hurting heart from what feels like that dog-shaped hole left in your soul after your dog dies. If you ask him, he will be happy to begin or deepen that process of “inner healing” in your life in that mysterious way that only he can do. Why don’t you start or renew a conversation with God today? That’s what prayer is: a simple coversation with your heavenly father. He is listening, he cares and he is sure to answer.
Psalm 30:5(b)…weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning
Please share this with others who may need comfort after the loss of a furry friend. Thanks!
*I’ve recently learned that the hard-copy book is out of print, but e-copies and used copies are still available on-line https://amazon.com/author/janetdecaster I am prayerfully seeking the Lord’s wisdom on republication soon and in the publication of other animal-themed devotional manuscripts that I have written.
** At the time of Joy’s loss, I wrote on the topic of whether pets go to heaven. It is a Bible-based study that may also be a helpful resource. You can find the link here: https://janetdecaster.com/do-pets-go-to-heaven/
*** I actually cried and held a pet funeral as an adult for our family goldfish when my daughters were young. I was in a Chaplaincy class in Bible school at the time and learning about the importance of acknowledging grief and didn’t want my daughters to grow up in a household with denial issues. I lined a little check-book box with flowers and buried the fish in our flowerbed and held a service. I was so sad! My kids could have cared less, honestly, but they ‘attended’ the fish funeral at which I ‘officiated.’ Not kidding! (we still talk about that with a little chuckle now that they are young adults :0) I loved the fish and felt really sad when it died after 5 years in a bowl on my kitchen counter! I also felt much better after I cried for poor little Goldy the goldfish! Now you know why God picked me to write the animal-themed devotional books, right? I’m a SOFTY who loves all animals!! And there are more devotional books in the works.