On Losing A Pet
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Who knew that the sight of purple clover could, reflexively, cause my knees to bend so my fingers can pluck? That three years would be enough to create in me a clover-picking reflex? Or that, these last three years, for a walk to be good it must be capped by gathering fresh greens for Dinah?
Who knew, in bed at night, we’d find ourselves listening for her leggy, lagomorphic thump from an empty crate in the basement? Or wishing I could watch her kick up those big heels again and leap- I always thought- like a calf released from a stall. Seeing her hop like that when I came down to exercise in the morning always made me happy.
Losing a pet means we can’t push death out to the margins. We can’t ignore the fact that all flesh is like grass, and our lives our like a mist. Pets shorter lives force us to measure our short lives. Losing a pet forces us to think about these things.
Who knew that a glance at a purple clover would make me think on heaven?
Men spend their time in following a ball or a hare; it is the pleasure even of kings. -Blaise Pascal,
Somehow a lumpy little flop-eared bunny named Dinah did all that. The boys followed her for three years and now she helps our family measure our own days. Five years ago, losing a pet named Zippy, did the same. In fact, remembering our good dog Zippy sort of kicked off this blog.
But this week, we remember Dinah.
We’d just moved to our new dwelling place, after 17 years in the old schoolhouse on the corner, when our friend Rosie mentioned her nephew might have a bunny for sale.
We remember how Dinah made us laugh. Like when she pounced on a friend’s yippy little puppy. We remember how our timid cousin Anna finally worked up the courage to feed Dinah a carrot. Then Dinah crunched, and Anna laughed. We laughed as she hopped figure eight’s around our feet and under our knees. She enjoyed those routes.
We laugh about how she swallowed that balloon and hopped right along. We smile now wondering if she may possibly have enjoyed being hopped along by Gabe with his much-desired, 9th birthday, rabbit-hopping leash. But we know for certain how Dinah enjoyed all the loving rubs she got from the guys. Those rubs are when we learned that cats aren’t the only critters that purr.
Our three years and a month with Dinah ended Tuesday.
A Yardstick for our Days
O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! …For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers. –Psalm 39:4, 12b
Granted- Rabbits aren’t man’s best friend, and cats might have more personality. But Dinah had a place in our hearts. She was a measure for our days.
Dinah munched less and nested more the last few weeks. We saw this coming. So when Tuesday came, I filled her box with Dad’s fresh, alfalfa hay; her bowl with sweet orange Gator-Aide. Then I carried Dinah from crate and place her gently down on a towel beside my desk.
Hey guys, Dinah doesn’t have long to live. You might want to say good-bye now, I told them when they marched in after school. And Sam said his in his matter-of-fact way. And Gabe said in his emotive way. Then hope broke through and Gabe announced, “Look Mom, she’s grooming. You said that means she must feel good.”
But a few minutes later Dinah lay down. Soon her breathing changed. Then Dinah thumped one last time and lay still on her side. Death is not right, Gabe. It hurts. It’s not how God made it to be. That’s why we need a Savior.
Tears flowed as we stroked a velveteen ear. But if we know Jesus, Gabe, death will be swallowed up in victory.
That was last week. Since then, I’ve heard a few phantom thumps in the night and bent down once or twice to pick a purple clover.
And I’ve thought a lot about how living with a pet anchors our memories and gears up our hope for Resurrection Morn. How losing a pet, oddly enough, can even help us. Dinah’s departure reminds me how short this life is, and makes me want to number these fleeting days right.
So if you need any help measuring your days, you might get a pet.
Even a lumpy little flop-eared bunny will do.