Sunday, April 17, 2005


We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,
and not to please ourselves.
-- Romans 15:1

When we got our puppy Sunny Bone-O, a friend of mine was extra happy for us. He had a very special canine companion for 16 years. He swears he’ll never have another one.

Fremont was a German Shepherd mix with stand-up, show-dog ears. He weighed over 100 pounds. My friend lived then in Fremont, Neb., so he gave him that name temporarily. It stuck.

They were inseparable. Fremont had the wisest eyes, and never messed up a thing. He seemed to know what you were thinking. Maybe he did.

The years passed. The hips began to go. Fremont downshifted to an occasional lope, then slow padding. Finally, he moved very little at all.

My friend gave Fremont the best of veterinary care. He nearly drove him to a vet school in another state for a series of operations. But there was no guarantee. So they didn’t go.

Time passed. People said he really ought to put that old dog to sleep and put him out of his misery.

My friend would stiffen. Misery? What misery? There was no evidence Fremont was in pain. He never whined or made a mess. He was just old.

Finally, they went to the dreaded vet appointment. The doctor said now was the time. It had to be done.

My friend’s eyes filled with tears. He picked up his dog in his arms, loaded him in his car, and went back home.

The vet, who got a little choked up himself, waited ‘til the end of the day, and then he called.

“Well,” my friend said, “if you come over right now, and do it right here, where he can be at home with me right by his side, I guess I’ll let you do it.”

And that’s how it went down: a gentle needle stick, and a beloved dog’s eyes closed for the last time, his head cradled in the lap of his master, who sobbed his heart out, right there on the front porch.

Even though it was more than a year ago, when he told me about it, there was such love and pain in his eyes, reminding me so much of the dogs I have loved and lost, that I got a little choked up myself.

Throughout the recent Terri Schiavo ordeal, my mind kept replaying that scene, evidence of a loyal, faithful, covenant relationship.

You know, so much of what goes on with pets mirrors what goes on with people. Companion animals are family, after all. They’re the “farm team” for human relations.

We all have stories about times when our beloved pets have died. It’s important for kids to see our tears and experience the wrenching loss and loneliness. They’ll see what love is, and how the more civilized you are, the better you treat the ones who are weak and sick.

So here’s what keeps going through my mind: would anybody I know purposely starve and dehydrate a pet to death?

No matter how old and frail and “useless” they had become, would anybody do that?

Furthermore, mercy killing may be humane stewardship of an animal, but what about doing anything that you know will kill an innocent human being made in the image of God? And your action would prevent God from working a miracle if He so chooses?

Much less outright killing them by denying them food and water?

And yet here was Terri Schiavo, a disabled woman, younger than I am, on no special life support other than food and water – no ventilator, no “heroic measures.” She was not in a “persistent vegetative state,” according to solid medical opinion. There was hope she might revive.

And yet she was deprived of food and water until she died.

You know the old saying: “That shouldn’t happen to a dog.”

No kidding.

And if she had had the love in her life that Fremont did, and legal backing for her absolute right to life, it wouldn’t have.

All we can do is live and learn . . . and promise each other, “Never again.”

Praise report: Father, we are so thankful that our beloved friend Cindy’s leukemia is so responsive to chemotherapy. Her white count dropped from 400,000 to 60,000 after the first course recently. The doctor said it was the most “brilliant” response he’d ever seen. Help keep her spirits up and keep her body fighting so successfully. We praise You and thank You for sending so many prayer warriors streaming in to the river of her life, and we ask that they keep it up. (John 7:38)

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