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