He died after 15 years and 8 months of life – a long time for a large breed. All but two years were spent with our family; he’d been with us since August, 2006.
Chesney (named by his second owner after a country music singer) had a rough start. Two owners in his first two years didn’t know how to or simply couldn’t handle him. His first owner was an older woman with glasses who treated him poorly. We never met the first owner, but when we saw Chesney go after grandmothers (older women with glasses) and growl when anyone came near his food, we figured it out. His second owner was a young, single woman who simply couldn’t handle him.
Then it was our turn. We were patient with him and taught him some new and better behaviors. It took time, but it was worth it. Even as we taught him, he ended up teaching us a few things about loyalty, faithfulness, unconditional love, and pure joy. The Pyrenees was strong in him – he was stubborn, a herder, and a protector. Exactly what we needed for a family with four young kids as we went through the roller-coaster ups and downs of life for 13 plus years.
We thought we’d lost him a year and a half ago; he simply couldn’t stand up for two days. A medication adjustment restored him somewhat and we enjoyed his company for a while longer. We nicknamed him, “The Dog Who Will Not Die.” He didn’t care. “Just feed me and take me for walks and spend time with me,” was all he cared about.
He made it through yet another winter. Northern Wisconsin winters are not for the faint of heart or health. But he toughed it out again. At least, he got to see the grass (or non-snow-covered yard) again. And he loved it. He loved the outdoors. He loved the snow. He loved the deer. He loved seeing the Trinity school kids at recess. As he loved the things he loved, he taught us to love and to find joy in the simplest things.
We haven’t disposed of the dog food yet. His walking chain sits on a counter. Evidence of Chesney is everywhere. I miss the early morning (even in winter!) walks. I see movement out of the corner of my eye, and it’s…not Chesney. I miss the noise and movement a dog brings, the love and loyalty. The deer miss him. They stand in the yard and look at the house, at us, as if to say, “Where is he?” Silly, I know, but they sense something different too.
There is grief, of course. In no way am I comparing the loss of a pet to the loss of a fellow human family member! But if you have a pet (dog, horse, turtle, fish, chicken, bunny, cat, lizard), you know the feeling. But there is also gratitude.
- Gratitude to God for the pets who become part of our lives.
- Gratitude for the opportunities pets give us to focus on something other than ourselves.
- Gratitude for the lessons pets teach us: empathy, loyalty, unconditional love, patience.
- Gratitude for this aspect of a pet’s devotion – What in the world does this creature see in me to make me the center of its world? I truly don’t deserve such attention.
Chesney was well-loved. And his life was well-lived. He carried out the purpose God gave him, the purpose God gives all of our pets: to bring us joy and happiness and understanding in often very surprising ways.
I know, this space is usually more sin-and-grace oriented, Law-and-Gospel focused, Christ-centered. It still is – I just wanted to take the time to think through and to write out a bit of a “Thank You!” to my Lord for yet another of his many gifts. God help us to be thankful for even the most mundane and simple things. Everything good comes from his gracious hand.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17 NIV)
(Photo credit: Elizabeth Luchterhand)
30 Days of Gratitude:
#16 – Pets who bring joy; personally grateful for 13 plus years with Chesney
#17 – For service providers I’m missing right now: hair stylists, dentists
#18 – Vehicles that are running well (and paid for); and mechanics who assist
#19 – God’s presence in time of trial and challenge (watch Trinity’s Sunday service)
(By the way, are you doing this? I’m still thinking of providing a large jar for anyone to place items – noted on slips of paper – for which we’re grateful when we’re able to resume worship.)
God grant you a blessed weekend,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand