Within two weeks of each other, my son and daughter-in-law took both of their dogs to the vet to end their suffering. Juno and Bishop were so loving and gentle. They were rescued a few years ago, but sadly they both had recently been diagnosed with cancer. It’s very difficult to go through this, but our sincere love and respect do not to want to see them suffer. When my wife and I would visit, Juno would always bring us this huge chew bone and Bishop would wrap his legs around ours like he was hugging us. Of course, my son and his wife are very upset, and we can definitely relate as we have also said goodbye to several dogs through the years.
I remember our Boston Terrier Katy, and the sorrow I felt when they put her to sleep. I was rocking her like you would hold a baby and she was staring into my eyes like she had done since she was a baby. I believe us being present in their last moments is very comforting to them and I cannot help but believe they trust us to do the right thing.
A couple of weeks after I had written a rough draft of this column, we came home to find our beloved French Bulldog Sampson had unexpectedly passed away. We have taken it hard and miss him very much. I would kid around with my wife in the evenings when Sam would snuggle on the couch with us that he was the recipient of a lot of grand-baby love – ha! In fact, I do not even call them dogs, but I admit I refer to them as “children.” When I say, let’s go to bed, children, they march to the kitchen for their bedtime treat and go straight to their designated areas for the evening. We do not have grandchildren yet, and our dogs are so spoiled it’s comical. You know, I’m sure that some will think I’m silly, but a pet over time becomes much like a close family member, and to some people, the bond may be even stronger than any relationship they have with a human. Only those who are deeply attached to their animals would understand.
No matter what we are facing or how difficult the situation is, our pets love us without questions or judgments and can sense when we are upset. They are always there for us as a best friend should be. I have seen therapy dogs in action, and I’m convinced they are not only intelligent but also have an emotional discernment. For those who live alone, a faithful companion can bring much comfort and a feeling of security. After a long day, they are always happy to see us and it seems our time together with them is the most important thing in their life. Sam loved to take turns sleeping in our laps at night and he would snore so loud, I would have to turn the volume up on the TV. He would follow us around and just always wanted to be with us.
A survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association says there are well over 120 million dogs and cats that are pets in the U.S. Fish, birds, small animals, reptiles and horses that are considered a part of the family make up another 50 million individuals. With food, supplies, grooming, boarding and vet expenses at over 70 billion dollars annually, we can agree that people are serious about their companions. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that around 75 percent of American families own at least one pet.
I personally believe that pets are good for children as they learn to be sensitive and compassionate. Participating in the care and to enjoy the love that animals give in return helps to develop maturity and responsibility. I have been asked if our pets go to Heaven, and though no one really knows for sure, there are several examples in Scripture that confirm there will definitely be animals in the next life. I for one certainly hope that I will see them again.
DR. BILLY HOLLAND lives in Central Kentucky with his wife Cheryl, where he is a Christian author and community chaplain. To learn about his free CD offer, visit billyhollandministries.com.