Lessons learned from a new puppy

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A few weeks ago I had to have my 14-year-old beagle, Merry, who was suffering from cancer, euthanized. It was one of those awful days when making a loving adult choice is just damned hard. Our household of two humans and two remaining dogs went into grieving, but Suzie the Beagle and Dusty the Pekingese moreso than we humans because we understood why and they did not. They hunted for Merry for days before finally giving up and melting into a kind of pitiful lethargy. Pam and I considered finding the dogs a new sibling, but we were just not ready – or so we thought.

But God has a way of bringing bad things together to make something good, and so about three weeks after Merry’s death I got a call from our veterinarian’s office. Would I be interested in taking a cute beagle foundling that had been rescued? She was found lying exhausted and starving in the middle of a road. She had been fostered back to health and her rescuer was seeking a good home for her.

I went. I saw. I fell in love.

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So, now I have a new beagle puppy. She is about 10 weeks old and as adorable and smart as they come. She has revived our household and reminded me of several very important things.

1) Bad things happen. They are not God’s wrath for sins known or unknown, they are simply a fact of life. God did not give Merry cancer. The cancer was not a punishment intended for her or for me. It just happened, and, yes, it her death hurt, and it will hurt for a long time.

2) Being hurt, however, does not mean we have to suffer. Pain and suffering are two entirely different things. Pain happens, usually as a result of something outside of our control, but suffering is a choice. To suffer is to dwell in the pain, to fight it, to grieve over it too long, and to refuse to accept the changes that pain has brought.

3) The path out of pain and away from suffering is awareness, or prayerfulness as many would call it. That means being open to the possibilities, both good and bad, that pain may bring, and accepting those without blaming or dwelling on the pain in some kind of regret. Life inexorably moves forward and as time passes God offers us choices that can lead back to joy.

4) Painful events and experiences for one person might open the door for something good for someone else. Pain which is transcended over suffering in faith, and is endured even unto death, can transform the hearts and minds of others who stand by awed and inspired.

5) Even bad things – illnesses, events, or experiences – can be brought together by God for good. 

My beloved companion of 14 years died from an illness through no fault of her own or anyone else’s. Somewhere a puppy was somehow separated from its mother and was starving and exhausted. She was rescued from certain death, revived by kindly hands, and brought into the pain of our loss.

So, we now have a new puppy. Her name is Copper (after her coloring), and she is bringing joy back into our home.

We are all having to learn new things as a result of this blessing:  She, how to behave in a new home, that one does not mess with your sibling’s supper dish, and those blue and white pads on the floor have a specific purpose when nature calls.  We, how to be patient now that our routine has been radically changed, that puppies need patient understanding and attention, and that puddles and piles off the pads just come with the blessing.

Yes, everything has changed, the pain is still there, off in the background, but joy is now present where silent grief once held place. Barking, whining, growling, wild chases, and the occasional spat have replaced the cruel silence – but it took two painfully bad events to bring about a new and singular good.

We do not know the “Why me?” of painful experiences. That is something reserved for God alone. But we can, through openness, prayer, and faith, be made aware and in that awareness choose to allow our pain to be transformed. 

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NRSV)

It’s all good. Now if she would just learn to hit those pads!

~ Michael Doty