He lay in her arms, that golden furry leg dangling over as the breeder walked to where we sat on the picnic table surrounded by sun and blue sky. We came to see the puppies but she held him back from a previous litter. Thought he might be a show dog and she was hesitant to reveal him to us.
He was already four months old. An old geezer for most people looking for puppies and she wasn’t sure she wanted to give him up.
And I knew the second I saw that docile face, paws already the size of a child’s hand, he was the one. God whispered it in my heart.
It all started before Murielle’s seventh birthday. Telling us, she wanted to be blind so we would have to get her a dog after three years without a pet. And it was her golden birthday after all – the day you turn the age of your birth date – and a golden retriever puppy just seemed like the perfect gift.
So a few weeks before her birthday (because it wasn’t going to just be her dog, she has a brother) on Valentine’s Day, nine years ago, we piled the kids in our old Volvo and told them we were taking them somewhere. It was a surprise.
And ever since that wide- eyed day of joy, when we went to pick up the puppy we called Winston, he galloped into each one our hearts and made a space of delight there just his size.
Buried his head into legs available for petting,
Rested his head on the couch during nights of family television,
Sat smiling in the back seat of the van for errand running, school drop-off and pick-up, long road trips,
Pranced through hotel lobbies like a crowned king,
Swam after kids splashing in the lake at the cottage,
Danced with H in the water when it got too deep to paddle,
Howled from shore when we pulled away in the boat to ski,
Hid under furniture and legs at the sound of fireworks and thunder,
Ran after lizards and cats and chipmunks,
Stood guard in the yard at my gasps over critters during spring gardening,
Sat docile on the front stoop to greet dog-walkers,
Carried tennis balls in his mouth,
Chased the kids around the couch in the living room,
Lay on the floor with Murielle every day after school like pals having a chat,
Parked himself outside of every doorway where I was during the day, his heavy sighs my assurance during long days of writing,
My faithful companion on walks to get perspective, he stops patient for the click of the camera every few steps.
All four of us, we gather round his sick body lying fetal on the fluffy pillow in the tile of the kitchen and H prays. He thanks God for all the joy brought to us in such a lovely creature. The gift of a dog that seems to understand every word we speak and obeys relentless. How the last thing he would do is impose on his family.
I think about how this isn’t fair. How sickness, it’s an interruption to life. Sins ugly hold on the world that chokes the beauty of who we are.
But it also reminds that heaven waits. That sometimes it isn’t what we do, or what we deserve, it’s just fallen, this world we live in. And true beauty lies on the other side of this life.
And if I grieve like this over my dog, what sin has done to destroy him, I cannot imagine the depth of sorrow my God feels over what sin does to us, His children.
We gave Winston up today and the void feels dark and deep. Sorrow spins its web over us, chokes joy. But your empathic words of comfort are like scissors, cutting off what shrouds and I am thankful. So very thankful. Really.
Weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning. ~Psalms 30:5
> > > <3 <3 < 3 Feeling your pain. <3 <3 <3 < < <
Thank you sweet Jean. For always being here and being so supportive.
This made me go lie on the floor with my dog for a while. I’m so sorry, dear one. Joy does come in the morning, but He will be right beside you in the midst of the dark night of grief.
So glad it made you take those moments with your own dog. And thanks so much for the share on Facebook. Touched my heart.
What a beautiful tribute to a beloved pet. My heart goes to you as your heart heals from the loss.
I hope so. I want everyone to know that this wasn’t just a dog, he was special, unlike any other pet I have had. Thanks for your concern and for being here.
So beautifully written.Truely.I know what you are going through,and yet,still can’t find the words to consoul,soothe the broken heart.I see & deal with this daily,and yet,it never gets easy,or easier to deal with.Your words actually made me cry,cry with you.To remember the good times,but not just those times,little daily reminders,things we tend to lose sight of,or not think largely of(like always having a tennis ball in mouth,like my Kadence),words spoken so vivid as if I had met and known Winston as well.He sounded like a pretty amazing character,my thoughts and prayers with you and yours during this time.
Kristen, like you said here, I have been thinking much since this happened about how we take so many things for granted in life. Forget to see the gifts right in front of us every day and how I want to be better at paying attention and honoring the daily stuff God sends my way. Thanks for praying and being here. I really do appreciate it.
Shelly, reading this makes tears flow & my heart is heavy for you guys…sending love…xo
Thanks Terri, I am still shedding tears. Wish I could stop. But your empathy, it makes it feel better.
A sweet, sweet tribute to Winston. I know you will miss him. When we lost our Golden “Krinney” to illness, it was harder than I had imagined it would be. A Golden spends every one of their days so eager to please -truly a gift from above.You will be blessed with the many memories of his companionship. Your photos of him playing in the northern lake brought back many memories of time we spent on the water with our Golden. Your tribute is a blessing to anyone who has loved and lost a dear pet.
Kathy, how lovely of you to leave a comment. I so appreciate your encouragement. I think we don’t realize how much our hearts entangle with those pets day to day. Couldn’t believe how many photos I have of him over the years. I told H, “he was in every part of our lives, right there at our feet all the time.” Thanks for being here. Love you lots.
Beautifully written, once again. My heart goes out to all of you. What an amazing and beautiful gift pets are in our lives. God was so good to create animals for us to enrich us and bring great joy. Praying for you.
Thanks Carrie, I really appreciate your encouragement and the reminder that our pets are truly gifts from Him.
Having recently lost one of my own dogs to a sudden diagnosis of widespread bone cancer, my heart goes out to you. What an incredibly touching tribute to a clearly wonderful and well loved family companion. I’m sure your Winston couldn’t have ever asked for a better forever home than the one he found with your family.
So sorry for your loss as well. The hardest part was the fact that he still remained the same up until the end, never changed his behaviour even though we knew he probably felt horrible. He lost one of his eyes and then just before surgery to have it removed we discovered a fast growing cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue. That was only at Thanksgiving. Can’t believe he is already gone. Appreciate your loving and generous encouragement.
I can find nowhere in the Bible to support this (and so many other things I believe) but I sense that our pets are creatures with souls and a mission. They are a part of God’s love incarnate and are sent to us for a time to make us be better people, to learn to love, and grieve and care. They are here to show us what joy and love looks like in simple form and how to be grateful for things like daily bread, affection and someone who cares enough to notice when the door needs to be opened and all sorts of other things we would otherwise not know. The creatures have a big job to do in breaking our hardened hearts and giving us faith that, indeed, they can once again be healed. I expect you will see Winston again as he waits by the door for you to come home yourself. It will be a joyous reunion. Take care
I don’t know if he will be there or not, the bible isn’t clear. Sometimes I think we need to tell ourselves that to cope on this side of heaven. But the truth is, when we get to heaven, our pets will probably not be at the forefront of our thinking amidst all that glory. I am so grateful for the gift of Winston, what he taught us and how he enriched our lives. A true gift from God.
As I read your blog, I was reminded of my comment when I first met Mandy, on her third day of life. “I’d NEVER own a doberman, they are just too skinny and not cuddly”……………..Even looking into the closed-eye newborn face of the precious dog who would become my second daughter, I couldn’t fathom having a dog of that breed worm itself into my carefully protected heart. I have cried off and on all week as I pack up her old stuff, see things that remind me of her or watch our new puppies do those silly things puppies do–like chew on tree trunks! Before I scold the newbies for their ‘childish’ behavior, I take a moment and cherish the memory Mandy left in my mind.
I am happy to believe that Mandy and Winston can play together now…………..unencumbered by sickness and old age!
Lisa, its all those patterns of life and daily reminders of the void that bring the tears. Never realized how much of my brain space he was actually taking until he wasn’t here anymore. Finding myself thinking routinely about feeding, letting him out, walking him, etc. I know it will go away in time. So sorry for your loss as well. I really can’t imagine having puppies again!
They truly are God’s gift to us. The joy far exceeds the pain of letting one go, though at the moment of loss it seems far away. I am, of course, reminded of losing our Sammy; but also reminded of all of the joy that he brought to us. Your tribute to Winston is fitting. I am glad that I was able to spend the time with him that I did last week. He was truly the sweetest, gentlest, most loyal canine soul I have ever known. He will be restored to health and will await his reunion with his precious family in heaven…….I’m sure of it.
Paula, so glad you had that time with him. He couldn’t eat in the end, even though he really tried. The day we took him in he was more alert than he had been previously and that made it even harder. When the vet looked in his mouth after he passed, she said we did the right thing. That the tumor was so large it was up to the middle of his tongue. Said she didn’t even know how he made it that far. Hardest thing I have done so far.
I’m so sorry for your loss. It is never ever ever easy. Winston was a beautiful dog and I can tell, a wonderful member of the family. Prayers for you and your family.
Yes, I almost always received compliments on both his beauty and obedience every time we went out together. Never had a better pet. Not sure I ever will. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really do appreciate your prayers.
Love & comfort to you & your family. I know you are suffering a great loss. Prayers for you all.
Yes, we never know how great the void will be until they are gone. I appreciate your prayers during this hard time for our family.
My heart breaks for all of you Shelly. We know all too well the kind of sadness all of you are going through right now. Winston was a truly special “fur person” – because, you’re right – he really wasn’t your typical dog.
Appreciate your empathy Debbie. It will take time to get over this one for sure. We had people call us saying they were crying too. That is the kind of effect he had on people. He was well loved.
Yes, I’ve cried myself several times since the first post about Winston’s health. Today has been a several tissue day knowing how much he was loved and what you are all going through.
Oh Debbie, your tender heart just makes ME want to cry. Your so lovely. I know. I do fine, and then walk out to the garage and see his food and then I am a mess all over again. I keep feeling like he is going to show up again, like its not really real that he is gone. Its weird.
Sigh. What a beautiful dog. What a gift–him to you and you to him. My heart aches with yours.
Yep, heavy sighs here too. I had a hard time not leaking through church this morning. He was truly a gift, never once a bother. We miss him tons.
It has almost been two years since I walked the road you took last week. Words can’t express the pain I feel for you. I’m sorry you have lost your furr baby. May God heal your broken heart in His timing and until that time comes, give you abundant grace to face each moment and circumstance w/out Winston. We miss our Lance, still! and we Rejoice to know he met Winston at the Rainbow bridge and they are having fun in the water.
Hugs to you!
My aunt sent me that story about the rainbow bridge or I wouldn’t have known what you meant. And time is good for healing the sadness. It gets less with each day but I know, like you, we will miss him long. Thanks Coleta, for leaving a comment and for your empathy. It was so great to meet you in Houston.