My Golden Retriever & The Nature of Loss

          This past Monday we had our family dog of nine and a half years put to sleep.  She was a Golden Retriever named Taffy.  My wife bought her on the side of a highway near Bastrop, Texas as a puppy-on a whim.  She quickly became a dominant thread in our family tapestry.  She tapped our pocketbook too much, she made us mad with her adolescent antics, and she stole our hearts.  She didn’t retrieve very well and she once ate most of a lasagna off of our countertop.  But she helped my seven year old daughter overcome her fear of dogs and she never veered from providing us with a rousing reception upon coming home-even if we just went to the mailbox.  She obeyed two commands-“Come” and “Sit.”  Looking back, she was our “sacred object” that got us to Italy and home again over the past five years.  In her, God provided an emotional constant to the stormy experiences of life and ministry in a foreign land.  But about six weeks ago we discovered she had cancer.  She went through a major operation just before Thanksgiving-there was just too much-it had spread too far.  We are grateful as a family that she made it this long and through the holidays.  We needed her and I think she needed us.  It has been a challenging time of transition to life back in the States.
          The pain of losing our dog has caught me off guard.  I have teared up at random times.  I have felt kind of lost and empty.  Why?  She was just a dog.  Maybe she represents the culmination of other losses.  Both of my parents passed away during our first year in Italy.  They died four months apart, also of cancer.  And I am only child.  I had only passing moments to truly process my loss back then. Fresh loss is forcing me to reconsider other losses.
          I have been reading Genesis in the Bible this month.  Genesis means “beginnings.” Chapters 1 & 2 describe God’s creative activity for the beginning of life as we know it.  The ultimate purpose for humankind is also established.  We are to reflect God’ s image and steward the rest of creation.  But in chapter 3 everything changes.  We move from being image bearers to becoming image builders-because of sin.  Fear, shame and hiding become regular drivers of human behavior. And death enters the world.  We were not meant to taste spiritual and physical death.  We were not meant to suffer loss.  But now we do.  It’s a devastating reversal of the created order.  And we especially mourn the death and loss of those who were close to us-those we loved.  Death and loss steal relationship and replaces it with seemingly unanswerable questions.  That’s why I miss my dog.  That’s why I miss my parents.  I have lost relationships that I treasured.
          Death and loss should also serve to make us wonder what is wrong with the universe.  These impostors should actually cause us to consider God because we are hard wired to sense that we were meant for more.  Genesis 3 also begins to reveal God’s rescue plan.  He is not only the Creator-He is the Redeemer.  The rest of the Bible unveils the magnificent storyline of God chasing after people to rescue them from sin and death and loss.  The end of the book reveals a re-creation that is a believer’s future certain hope.  In that future reality, death and loss are destroyed.  Relationship with our Creator is fully restored.  Do you understand?  Do you hope?
          I will feel the loss of my favorite dog for a longtime.  I will experience new losses. But I know the end of the story.  There is hope in One who died on my behalf.  And He says, “Come.”

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  1. Oh my. Sitting here with my almost two year old golden and tearing up through your blog. I just told her she could never die. She raised one eyebrow. I think she understands.

  2. Oh Gary- such a great post filled with hope at such a time of great loss for y’all. I cried, feeling and sensing the loss of Taffy with you, but you did a great job of pointing us to the ultimate hope in Christ’s return! Remind me to read this when I have to say goodbye to my Beignet.

  3. Pingback: Taffy Woofy Runn. | Snapshots

  4. Gary, so appreciate your vulnerability in sharing the depth of loss you are feeling. We want so much to stuff our pain… but it is what makes us “real” like the velveteen rabbit…. Taffy was so sweet. I know she had such a vital part in your family. Aching with you all.

  5. Thanks for sharing Gary. I am crying too. Even after almost a year and a half back, I feel like I am continuing to grieve the loss of relationships and transitions. Thankful for the journey God has us on. So great to see you and hear from you in class this week. You are an incredible communicator of God’s truth.

  6. I am a newbie to this forum and thought the best way to come up-to-speed was to read the blogs selected as the most outstanding of the year in review. This was of particular interest as I am an animal lover and very much respect the contribution they make in my life. It is one of pure joy and most importantly unconditional love. Any soal that makes this contribution selflessly is what aspire to daily. What is most curious to me about this post is what the author states in the fourth paragraph: “Death and loss should also serve to make us wonder what is wrong with the universe.” I know this post was at a particularly difficult time in the authors life, in that the loss of a beloved pet is a most difficult and emotional time. It is of comfort to me to know that there is nothing wrong with the universe. Death and loss, like birth and celebration serve us well in that they offer much opportunity for us to discover who we are as well as what surrounds us. They are gifts, and fortunately while our bodies may cease to exist, the spirit will never cease to exist, and loss, of whatever kind, often brings great understanding and new awareness. Each pet I have had the priviledge of sharing my life with came with great contribution and I am most grateful, and each led to the next. This is the message I wish to share with author in hopes of suggesting a greater sence of balance. The balance is within us even in the darkest times.

    • Thanks Diana for your comments. I took a look at your web site and it looks like you guys do some great work in Washington. What a great part of the country to sell real estate-you have some beautiful properties listed. Glad too to hear that you are an animal lover and I agree with your perspective on how the natural occurrence of death and loss serve us in becoming more aware and understanding. The writer of Ecclesiastes would agree when he states, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die . . .” My world view would include the idea that the universe is inherently broken due to human selfishness that we see and experience everyday. But there is a certain hope coming. The writer of Revelation says it best, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” My point in the post is that death and loss also serve to show that I don’t have within me the balance and endurance I need, apart from the presence of God in my life. Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and I wish you great success with Brown Bear Real Estate in 2013!

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