Friday, October 17, 2008

Yesterday The Sun Set...

...on the life of a good dog. I recalled the conversation with a lady on a collie list many years ago. She lived in California - we lived in Alabama. She showed collies and had 19 of them at the time - several were champions. As we communicated back and forth, I learned that she had one who just wasn't liking the show circuit.  He was beautiful and showed well in confirmation, but was a home boy, preferring to be at home with family. Of course being that her work was showing and raising show champions - she had little use for, and no room for a 'family pet' collie in her grand furry menagerie.

His name was "Rebel" and she told me his name fit him! But I was struck by his beauty and having lost my beautiful collie Courtney several years previous - my heart longed for another collie in the home. And so we made a deal - she would give him to us, but I would pay for his airplane ride across the country. That FREE dog cost me nearly 300 dollars to transport... and thus he became a beloved family member. He was 18 months old when he came to be our dog. Yesterday he died, 2 months shy of his 12th birthday... old and very arthritic, in pain, unable to stand to relieve himself... wobbly on his feet... the proud, happy, rambunctious Rebel's life had become very, very difficult.

The first half of his life with us, he was a family pet. He loved to romp and run and play and bark. His tail was always carried high, and wagging continually. He was a mischief maker, a merry boy. He was a thorn in Casey's side as his playful and rambunctious antics did not always sit well with her. Yet let the sky darken and the thunder grow loud with an approaching storm,   and suddenly they became best friends - both scared of bad weather, they huddled together during storms, comforting each other through them. Their love/hate (jealousy, really) relationship and behavior was often a source of humor and entertainment to us.

When Gretchen went off to college she lived in some unsafe neighborhoods. She often spoke of being a little afraid. So in her 3rd year of college (of 7 - she switched majors) when we moved to Florida, she took Rebel back to school with her at the University of Alabama. Thus the last several years of his life were spent at college being her best friend, her roommate, her

bodyguard. She said she always felt safe when Rebel was with her. He was big, and though he was a collie and generally friendly as collies are - he would not tolerate anyone messing with his human family.  So he made a good companion and bodyguard for Gretchen, and though I missed him, I felt better knowing he was with her, taking care of her.   Gretchen graduated in May of 2007 and began a wonderful career as a registered dietician. She got engaged this past summer. And Rebel was right there to observe as his beloved human child became a strong and wonderful woman. But he was slowing down. His body was betraying his wonderful lively spirit. It became more difficult to run and play, though he would try his hardest. He had bursts of playfulness, but pain got the best of him eventually, and he took to observing the fun around him, unable to participate any longer.

He went to live with Joe (Gretchen's fiance) the past couple of years. Joe is a dog lover, and had a longhaired doxie named Roscoe. Roscoe and Rebel formed an immediate bond. They understood one another and became fast friends... best friends. Gretchen lived in a cramped apartment and Rebel was happier in a house with a yard, so it was a good arrangement. Every day after her classes, and eventually after she graduated, after her job she would go over and play with the dogs, feed them, and spend several hours with them  and with Joe.

As Rebel slowed down and then deteriorated due to the severe arthritis afflicting him, Joe and Gretchen worried how it would affect Roscoe when the day came, that he would no longer have his friend. They worried that Roscoe might actually grieve himself to death, without Rebel. So they brought in baby Belle to join the family a couple of months ago. At first the two 'old men' rejected her but eventually Roscoe began to accept her as a playmate. After all, his old friend Rebel could no longer run and play with him. He was now the silent observer, where once he had been the joyful instigator of fun and merriment.  Gretchen's heart grew heavier as the days went on.. and Rebel grew more feeble.

These last weeks have been very rough for Rebel as he became incontinent and unable to even move away from the soiling. Gretchen and Joe exhibited tremendous patience with him as they knew he could not help it. But it was very unpleasant to come in and have to deal with the mess and to clean it out of his coat without subjecting him to a full bath.  This week they talked and made the decision that it was time to let Rebel go, to release him from his suffering. Yesterday was the hardest day for my baby girl as the vet would be coming out to the house in the evening, to put Rebel-man to sleep. My brokenhearted Gretchen said good-bye to her faithful friend and reassured him that he had been a good boy and a good friend. Thanks to their good and compassionate vet, He went easily to sleep in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his human and canine friends. And dear Joe, bless his heart, had the task of digging his grave and burying him. This task has always fallen to Bobby over the years of our children growing up,  and Bobby said he felt for Joe, as it was the hardest thing to bury a good family pet.

And so the landscape of our family changes again.. with the loss of dear Rebel. As much as we know that death is a part of life... we still grieve. His place will always be secure in our hearts.  As I type, Casey is resting at my feet. She is getting up in age as well, though seems to be in good health for an almost 14 yr old doggie. But in my heart I know that we will face another similar dreaded day somewhere ahead in time.

I don't truly know if dogs go to heaven. Some say yes. Some say no, because dogs are animals and have no souls. But I find no evidence in scripture that the lack of a soul would keep one out of heaven, for the angels are welcome there and they have no souls! And we know the scriptures speak of horses being in heaven, for Jesus will one day return, riding a great horse... and lions and lambs are spoken of in heaven. There is a passage in scripture which speaks of the whole creation groaning under the curse of sin, and eagerly awaiting that day when God will redeem His whole creature from the curse of sin, which is death. So who knows?  If they do go to heaven... then there will be several very good doggies there, who will be so glad to see us when we arrive! :")

Rest easy Rebel-man. You blessed our lives with your coming to join our family, and you will always be loved. The afflictions you increasingly endured the last two years of your life will NEVER overshadow the memories we will keep of your love, your exuberance, your mischievousness, your playfulness, your sheer joy of just being alive! Rest, good boy. And I do hope we meet again in heaven. 

"The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of its master."  ~ Ben Hur Lampman


Terry said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Lynn! My heartfelt sympathy goes out to all of you during this difficult time.

Michelle said...

I'm so saddened to read your post. What a beautiful dog!

God bless & hugs to you all~Michelle

Mary said...

Awwww, Lynn, I'm sorry to learn of Rebel's passing. I know how important a family member he has been for you and your family through the years. He was such a gentleman. I know this is a real loss for you all.

Your tribute to Rebel was beautifully written and a real gift to your good friend. I know he will be missed.

Love, Mary

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful part of your family.
Our thoughts are with you and JOoe and Gretchen...

Lynn said...

Thank ya'll.. Terry, Michelle, Mary and whoever signed without leaving their name. Mary, do you remember drawing Rebel and Casey for me a number of years ago? Those little graphics were so cute! Thank ya'll. We've cried a bucket of tears this week, but are feeling a little bit better (if we don't think about it too much.)

Kimberly said...

So sorry for your loss; even though it's a pet it's still part of your family. He was a beautiful dog! He was well loved I can see.

Susan said...

Oh Lynn, I am so sorry to hear the passing of Rebel. I have had to do the same thing with y first doxie when she was 16. I vowed to never get another dog, but we finally got Reina who is 9 now and she is my baby. She is really good with baby Eddie, even sharing her bed with him. Sending you and your family big hugs. Susan

Sue said...

Aww Lynnie... I'm so sorry for your loss. We had to put one of our cats down last September so in a fresh way I understand your sadness in losing a member of your family. We wondered how our Meg would take losing her brother ~ they were 2 of a litter of 4 kittens when we got them. She has done remarkably well considering.

Collies are such gorgeous dogs and wonderful family pets. We had 2 collies growing up too - one saddled with arthritis as well and the first one ended up with luekemia of all things.

My heart goes out to your family at this time of loss!

Big hugs Sweetie xo

Doralea' said...

Hi Lynn And Family,
Am so sorry to hear about Rebel but he is in Heaven running and playing with all the other pets people have lost. He is well,pain free,and will be waiting to see all of you someday!
You wrote such a wonderful tribute to Rebel and just know that "he knew he was loved,cared about and was very happy with everyone in the family and loved you all in return for your excellent care,great food,and being with him when he needed to play or just lay by you's and relax as he was very happy to be with you all.
Take care and remember he isn't suffering in anyway anymore and has complete control of all body functions.

Tänia said...

Hi sweetie... your beautiful tribute to Rebel was perfect. I began to have little tears form in my eyes as I continued to read on. I know you will miss him, especially Gretchen.

Big hugs!

Julie said...

Awww....I'm so sorry for your loss sweetie. I know how much our animals become such a part of our families, and it would have been so terribly difficult to say good-bye. Final good-byes are never easy. Rebel was obviously very much loved by all of you, what a lucky boy to have known such devotion and love. I can't begin to imagine how hard it was for Gretchen, you must be so proud of them.

I hope that you will meet your wonderful buddy again some day. Warm comforting hugs. xx

PS. Could you please be praying for my brother. His battle with cancer is almost over, and I feel so helpful with this huge ocean between us. He's in The Netherlands and his wife chose not to tell him he has cancer. My daughter Melissa shared the way of salvation with him a few months ago...bless her, so please be praying that if he has not done so already, somehow his now unconscious mind will respond to God's calling on his life. Thank you sweetie. Warm hugs. xx

Julie said...

Sorry, that was supposed to read as "helpless" not helpful.