One of our daughters has had a rough row to hoe in life. Brain injured at age 5 with lasting, life changing challenges have caused her to grow up in areas that some adults in today's culture never do. Over the past couple of weeks, I saw the fruit of what her years of hard and sometimes unfair lessons have taught her as she set aside her own needs to meet the needs of someone she loves.
A little over 11 years ago, my daughter was experiencing major rejection from kids that for the first 5 years of her life had been her friends. After her injury, because she was different, her former friends took advantage of her vulnerable position to supply their warped and immature needs for amusement that left my daughter hurt and confused. One day in prayer as I was asking the Lord how to help her he spoke very clearly to me to "get her a dog. A dog will love her everyday." And so we got Zoe, our golden retriever. It seemed that as soon Zoe and my daughter met, they were the best of friends. You know how it feels when you meet someone and you just know that you're going to be good friends? Well, that's how it was with these two. It was almost magical. When we went to choose a puppy, the other puppies played rough and tumble on the floor but Zoe picked my daughter out of the crowd, crawled up in her lap, laid down and fell asleep. Zoe was the runt of the litter, so perhaps even at 4 weeks of age, she understood how it felt to be a little different from the rest of the pack. And perhaps she could tell that my daughter felt the same way. That's what love does.
Zoe was very patient with my daughter through all the years. What she took my sons to task about, she let my daughter do. She loved them all, but she seemed to know that my daughter was her job, her mission, her ministry and Zoe embraced it with all the love a dog can give. Her sweet temperament allowed my daughter to tease her, play rough with her, and smother her with hugs and kisses- all which Zoe endured with a smile and an occasional retreat to our bedroom. That's what love does.
Eleven years of fun, friendship and extreme love later, it's time to say goodbye. All friends have to say goodbye sometime. But it's so hard. In a period of 2 weeks, Zoe went from being a perfectly healthy dog to one who barely had the strength to stand and walk. The writing was on the wall. Something was very wrong but the vet could not determine what it was. My daughter nursed the dog day after day giving up vacations, trips with family, her job hunt, and even sleep as she rose early in the morning to carry Zoe outside and give her medication without even one complaint. Zoe came first in every decision. That's what love does.
Finally, when it became apparent that Zoe was in distress, we rushed her to the pet emergency room. They told us that she probably wouldn't have lasted the night without oxygen. They felt she was bleeding internally but offered little hope of being able to help her even if they found the cause because of her age. We had several options. Leave her there til morning and they would make her comfortable. Based on how Zoe would react to our homecoming if we were just gone for a day, we knew that was not an option. She would have been frantic, not comfortable. Option two was to spend literally thousands of dollars to diagnose and treat her with probably very invasive procedures, or say goodbye and let her go in peace. Making the hardest decision of her 20 challenging years, my daughter agreed with the vet and decided to let go of her lifetime buddy so that she would not suffer unnecessarily. Then faced with the option of leaving Zoe while she was still alive or staying with her through the procedure until she had gone, my daughter decided that although it would be devastating for her, it would be better for Zoe if we were with her until she fell asleep for the last time. I was pleasantly surprised and very proud. Perhaps she has grown more than I realized. She was so strong. She fought back the floodgate of tears that were trying to come, she remained calm, comforting Zoe with soft strokes and soothing words, just as she always does when we go to the vet. I know how tremendously hard it was for her but that's what love does.
On the way home, there were tears, and fond memories spoken of and the determination that we had been privilege to a lifetime of love that borders the miraculous. Even if my daughter never marries, she has certainly experienced the richness of love at it's deepest level. She acknowledged that the same God that had given her Zoe 11 years ago knew that this was also going to happen today and was present with us still to comfort and help. Our times are truly in God's hands. Seeing this coming, and thankful for time to prepare, as a family, to lose our furry friend, I called the breeder that had bred Zoe. It soon became apparent that God had already been working. Zoe's younger sister will have a litter of puppies at Thanksgiving. So right before the new year, Zoe's niece will be coming home to live with us. It comforts my daughter to know that she will have a little piece of Zoe to love and care for. I think Zoe would like it too because... that's what love does.