It seems our lives are measured in dog years. Yesterday morning, on what would have been her thirteenth birthday, we put the remains of our beloved dog to rest in a corner of Sara’s garden. And we cried, both at our loss of Sheba’s presence and in celebration of the love we shared together for so long.
We’re grateful for all thirteen of those years. She wasn’t supposed to have so many. At six months of age our vet told us she wouldn’t live past five since she had such severe hip dysplasia. We were shocked at the news. Dogs don’t live long enough as it is, but only five years! As the news settled in Sara took a firm resolve. “If she only has five years I am going to make sure they are the best five years any dog could ever have.” And she did, so much so that Sheba just kept on enjoying the life Sara made for her for eight extra years.
As we buried her ashes, we gave thanks to God for the gift Sheba was to our family. She was a friend to everyone and embraced life with a passion. At the same time this black lab/German shepherd mix was a gentle soul. She thought fetching balls was a waste of time, but couldn’t resist a stick thrown into the ocean or a mountain lake. Swimming must have felt so good on her damaged hips. Perhaps her favorite thing was going for a ride in the car. You just mentioned a ride and she would go crazy, rushing for the door roiling with impatience. Even if Sara didn’t have anywhere to go she would take Sheba for a ride anyway almost every day. She was Sara’s constant ompanion when working in the garden until her back legs wouldn’t follow her to get down there anymore, then she would sit on the grass watching Sara’s every move.
When she came into our lives I was still writing So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, Sara had just earned her Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling and was employed by a local high school. The God Journey wasn’t even a thought yet, nor was The Shack. We had no grandchildren. Sheba saw us through the joy of those years, as well as their challenges. And she fell in love with each grandchild we had and treated them oh so gently loving each grandchild in turn and winning them into her friendship.
On Easter a week before she died, all the kids were packed up ready to leave and were heading for the front door. All of a sudden we heard one loud bark from Sheba laying a rug unable to get up on her own. That bark said everything: “Don’t you dare leave this house without saying good-bye to me.” We all laughed at her indignation and rushed back to include her in the good-byes.
Yesterday morning we also reflected on what Sheba demonstrated to us about God’s love and care. She was always there providing comfort and joy in the best and worst of times. Dogs are faithful no matter what. And you have no idea what adoration really is if you didn’t see Sheba watch Sara walk through a room. Her eyes were fixed on her with a look of wonder in her eye. She thought Sara was the most incredible human being to walk this planet.
We are embracing the grief now that our home is a bit emptier without her. We talk of her in the special places in our home where she used to keep watch. We speak of her often and how much we miss her. We made a video of her life to the tune of You Have a Friend in Me. We reminisce. We cry. We pray. Grief is a glorious process of crying out the pain to reclaim each memory, eventually taking out the sting of her loss and reveling in the joy of her time with us. It takes time, but it will work.
Yes, she is just a dog, but she’s was a beloved member of this family. She was a big part of the past 13 years and will always be a treasured part of our lives. We miss her and all she represents to us.
But time marches on.
A new pup has already taken up residence in our home.
The Zoey years have just begun.