I never thought I would write one of those clichéd stories about how a dog taught me life-long lesson. But that was before I had to put a dog to sleep during Holy Week.
My parents adopted Lance shortly after our thirteen-year-old German shepherd passed away. The house just wasn’t the same without the sound of balls bouncing up and down the hallway. We found out about an organization called GRREAT that rescues Golden Retrievers and sets them up for adoption. How it worked was you go to one of their adoption days where they have the dogs on display, and if you’re interested they will interview you to make sure your home can accommodate for the dog’s individual needs. My parents went to an adoption day and met a bashful dog named Lance. Not much was known about him except that he was picked up as a stray, he was estimated around three years old, and he had a slight problem with his peripheral vision. He was shy at first, but after Mom tossed a tennis ball to him a few times, he came to life and wanted to play. They signed the papers, a representative came to our house to inspect the place, and a week later Lance was ours.
He was your typical dog at first. He never begged for table scraps (although that’s because we never gave him any). He loved playing with tennis balls. He only barked when some one knocked on the door. But then after we cut his hair, we noticed that it wasn’t growing back right. His hair grew in patches. We took him to the vet and found out he had a thyroid problem. But that was no biggie; he just had to take some medication for that.
Then he lost the sight in his right eye. Then he caught Lyme disease. Then he lost the sight in his other eye. Even though we had to make some accommodations, we still loved him. Everything was still okay.
That is, until a couple of weeks ago when my stepfather Ray saw growths on the roof of Lance’s mouth. The only time we could schedule a biopsy was two weeks later due to Ray’s schedule. We had a feeling it was the worst because Lance wasn’t drinking as much water as he used to, but we still had hope. A few days after the biopsy, our fears were confirmed: cancer. We decided the best thing to do was the make Lance comfortable for the next few months of his life. Unfortunately, things got worse from there. It hurt when he ate. He was a lot more lethargic. I knew it would only be a few days when I touched his head and felt a dent above his right eye.
Today we put Lance to sleep.
I don’t really like to show my feelings in front of people, so I tried to not look my parents in the eye this afternoon and looked out the window instead. The sun was shining and the trees were blooming. It just didn’t look right, since everything was so alive.
But then I got to thinking maybe it did fit. During Easter we’re reminded that, thanks to the Resurrection, death is not the final word. One day the dead will rise, we’ll all be given new glorious bodies, and death will be no more. It’s hard to imagine it now, since all we know is this current fragile life with bodies as delicate as Lance’s. But that’s the beauty of Easter; it’s a reminder that this [looks around] isn’t all there is.
I’m going to miss Lance, but I’ll never forget him. Or what he’s taught me.