The next several weeks promised lots of good times, including weekend getaways, Bible camp for the kids and a 2,000-mile trip to visit both sets of grandparents. The mood in our home was upbeat. Then, out of the blue, our family dog began acting odd.

Snickers, an eight-year-old Shih Tzu, was coughing continually and breathing with much difficulty. A trip to the vet indicated that Snickers’ lungs were filled with fluid, which was pressing against her heart. Nothing could be done to help her. He suggested we spend the weekend lavishing her with love and saying goodbye before putting her to sleep.

Saying goodbye

The 10-minute trip home from the vet seemed like an hour. As my wife held Snickers on her lap, a tear ran down her cheek. We rehearsed how we would tell our three daughters the news.

If the trip home seemed much too long, the weekend of saying farewell sped by too quickly. We took turns holding Snickers on our laps or stroking her as she lay in her doggie bed. We wept as we shared memories of how this dog had filled our home with joy.

Then Monday arrived. After dropping off our fifth-grader for school, my wife and I made the dreaded drive to the veterinarian hospital with Snickers. All three girls returned home from school with their report cards while the two of us returned home with tear-stained faces. Within moments, all five of us were bawling.

Sharing your sorrow

Rather than swallowing our grief and pretending it wasn’t real, we embraced each other as well as our loss. I encouraged my kids to express their emotion and didn’t attempt to hide the sorrow I felt.

We made a memorial of sorts on the mantel above the fireplace. Pictures of Snickers were bracketed by her leash and collar and empty dish.

God’s comfort

We prayed and thanked God for the gift our dog had been. We asked Him to help us accept life without her. And God answered our prayer. That year, we grew amazingly close as a family – even though one obvious member was missing.

© 2008 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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