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.
So sorry to hear about your loss! Losing anyone you loved is hard to bear. Many of us welcome animals not only into our homes but into our hearts as well. When I lost a family cat years ago, I was comforted by a poem called Rainbow Bridge. I like to think that’s our pets’ version of an eternal home. I hope it brings you comfort as well.
Thank you, Helen!
When our just-turned-3-year old cocker spaniel died suddenly from a snake bite and subsequent vet malpractice, I was also surprised by the deep grief I felt over her loss. I didn’t want to get out of bed or speak to anyone and I just wanted her back. I visited her tiny grave many times in our backyard so many times in the following months. We got another puppy pretty soon after, same breed and bloodline. This pup is now 2 and we’re thankful that she has a much different personality and disposition (still good, just different; like kids). It has kept our Grace still firmly in our hearts and minds. I am so, so sorry for your family’s loss and can empathize completely with your heartfelt grief. I, too; felt guilty for crying over our dog’s loss (especially since I was at church that week for VBS), but animals are so engrained in our lives, that I believe our grief is justified. I hope you all heal as soon as time allows and Jesus sends you another dog that will be a wonderful addition to your home.
Oh gosh, I remember when that happened, Jenna. That was just awful! Thanks so much for your sweet words, friend. <3
Amy A. says
I gasped out loud when I saw this sad news on Twitter. I am so sorry for your loss and I am praying for you and your family.
Thank you, Amy!
I am so very sorry for the loss of your beloved dog. Praying for comfort for you and your family.
I appreciate your prayers so much, Hilary. <3
Sorry about your loss. xxooxxoo
I saw this horrible need in your newsletter (IG is off my phone for the foreseeable future) and I am so so sorry 🙁 Dogs leave their own irreplaceable mark on our hearts and families, don’t they? Grieve all you want and need, I say! We still feel sorrow for our yellow Lab, who passed away in early November 2008. It took several months before we were ready for another again.
Your precious Olaf being taken so suddenly is a grief that will surely take much time to ease 💔
*news (not need) 🙄
Miss Martha says
What Fr. Benedict Groeschel said about dogs: “We know they don’t have human souls, but we don’t know what kind of souls they do have.”
Everything that has breath, praises the Lord.
I am so sorry! Olaf sounds like a perfect and wonderful dog. I love how God “dropped him into your lap” and I hope that the next perfect doggie will come for you when you are ready. We lost our beloved Pug unexpectedly a year ago in October — she was only 9 1/2 and they live to be 12-15. Our last pug was 15. She had a heart attack I think in the car on our long drive home from my Dads. Anyway — I tried to “force” the issue by adopting a pug chihuahua pix a month later because I missed having a dog so much and it did not work out. She wasn’t the right dog for us (hated men and had some health issue that the pound didn’t know about and we weren’t able to take on). Then 6 months later we found a 6 month old Pug puppy that a breeder was wanting to find a home for. We met the dog and even she was adorable and so even though I didn’t get that “just right” feeling about her we decided to adopt her. The timing didn’t work out again as she was not potty trained as advertized and my husband was injured in an accident and couldn’t help me at all and we had to take her back. So we are feeling like dog parent failures and are still dogless. Now I AM going to wait until I feel the we have found or that God has shown us who our next dog is — even if I have to wait a few years. Best wishes to your family.
Oh my, I can remember the sadness I had when we lost our very first dog Cachi, when I was in the office and just feels those tears running through my cheeks. Life was never the same after our dog died, the sadness was unbearable and my son took so long before he was able to accept it. At present we have 3 dogs who are very much healthy and giving us happiness
Paula Frederick says
I’m so sorry. I’ve lost two cats and two dogs. After my first dog, I though I would not get another one, but Dixie found me. I think when we’re ready, the pet we’re supposed to have will find us. God puts them in our lives and they bring so much joy.
I will add your family to my prayer intentions, and I know your sweet Olaf is at the bridge waiting for you. I’ll ask Dixie and Mitzi to show him the ropes.