Wednesday morning our beloved Goldendoodle, Olaf, followed one of the children outside but must have run off instead of following them back into the house. He was hit by a car and died almost instantly. I saw it happen out the window out of the corner of my eye and screamed. Daniel ran outside to scoop him up and try to rush him to the vet. But the sweet little puppy was already gone.
He was a rescue dog that we adopted over three years ago and was such a precious addition to our home. The kids are devastated and I’ve had a sick, sinking feeling in my stomach ever since it happened. I knew I was attached to him but have been surprised at just how much grief I feel over his tragic death. The morning after we lost him I could hardly face getting out of bed knowing that he wouldn’t be waiting for me in the living room. I know it will take awhile to heal.
Today I remembered that I wrote a little ode to Olaf for my newsletter subscribers a few months ago and I wanted to share it here:
When Jesus Gives You a Dog
Let me set the stage: we hadn’t had a dog for eight years. I’m a dog person. I am a snuggle person. Snuggling with a dog is one of my all-time favorite past times.
I really wanted to get a new dog, but life just didn’t slow down! And a dog just wasn’t in the budget. It wasn’t prime dog-getting time, or so Daniel-who-isn’t-swayed-from-reasonable-decision-making-by-every-puppy-face urged me. But once we were planning the move to our new home I started researching and googling and asking around about dogs.
What kind should we get? What dogs are perfect angels around aggressive toddlers and don’t shed all over the house? And the answer, my friends, was Goldendoodles. But then I saw the price tag on those puppies. And it was Quite Something.
I knew paying a grand for a dog was not in the budget. So….I dropped it for awhile. In the meantime, we puppy sat for a friend. And it reminded me that puppies are basically terrible. They are as much work as babies, but they can bite your ankles with their razor sharp fangs. And I told Daniel, “I want a dog, not a puppy. I want a two-year-old dog. A two-year-old Goldendoodle.”
I kept living my dog-less life. Then one day one of Daniel’s co-workers asked him, “Do you want a dog?” To which he said a firm, “NO.” Then they said, “Ok. See, I’m trying to find a home for this two-year-old Goldendoodle.” (!)
Instead of saying, “Please, do not repeat any of this to my wife. This conversation never happened,” the dear man said, “Fine. Yes. I want that dog. That is Haley’s dream dog.”
I was floored. Exactly the dog I wanted was just dropped into my lap!
Enter Olaf, sweetest, snuggliest, fluffiest, most toddler tolerant Goldendoodle of them all. He follows me from room to room, gazing at me adoringly all day, every day. Except he always waits outside the bathroom door (he NEVER follows anyone into the bathroom because he is a GENTLEMAN).
I was explaining the whole thing to a friend recently and I said, “It’s like Jesus gave me a dog.” I think for the most part I fail to notice the little ways that God is present in my life. I don’t want to be that person who is all, “I was running late and then JESUS SAVED ME THE PERFECT PARKING SPOT!” but I think I can swing too far in the other direction–ignoring that Providence is actively at work in my life.
It seems silly considering all that is happening in the whole world that Jesus cares about small things like family dogs. Maybe it was just pure luck that this dog entered our lives. But it felt like a reminder that mysteriously, unexpectedly, and beyond all comprehension God cares about us. It doesn’t mean we always get what we want from some sort of cosmic Santa Clause or that suffering isn’t real and present in our lives and our world. But it reminded me that God knows me, really knows me, and every small desire of my heart matters deeply to him.
Now that our good boy is gone, we’ve been sharing all about how much he meant to us and how much joy he brought to our home. I was Olaf’s favorite until we brought Hildie, his one true love, home from the hospital. He was smitten. He didn’t leave her side for weeks after she was born. And once she grew big enough to reach out and grab his fur, he endured each yank so patiently while gazing adoringly into her eyes. She has been looking for her best friend and doesn’t understand why he’s not here. It’s heartbreaking.
But people have been so kind. I know the death of a dog isn’t earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things with all that’s happening in the world. But we’ve been flooded with text messages, phone calls, and a sweet friend even brought over flowers, tea, and Turkish Delight.
That kind of love and support communicates, “you’re not silly for hurting right now. Your pain, even over an animal, matters.” Another reminder that nothing is too small for God and He will use others to comfort us in our sorrows–big and tiny.
When I was a little girl I desperately wanted a puppy. My dad told me I could have my wish when I turned 35. Not having the understanding of how far away my 35th birthday was, I agreed to this arrangement. After Olaf died, my dad told me that although my birthday is several months away, he’s ready to make good on his promise whenever we are ready to open our hearts to a new dog.
We’re not ready yet. It’s hard to imagine a dog that fits better into our family than Olaf or that we could love as much as we loved him. But maybe by my 35th birthday, we will be ready to hear the sound that little paws make on hardwood floors and ready to snuggle with a new little companion.
We miss you, Olaf. Thanks for being such a good boy.