I know two young girls who have both had a very bad time as animal owners. Within the space of a couple of years, while only in first or second grade, the older of the two lost a dog to distemper even though it had been properly vaccinated. The replacement dog, a small energetic animal, was hit by a car—right in front of the child’s eyes.
The younger child, still a pre-schooler had a dog all her life that was not very good-tempered. A few months ago, the dog bit her and had to be permanently “moved” to another home. While that dog was still alive, this little tyke had two nearly identical kittens from the same litter, one she kept at her mom’s home and one at her dad’s. The first cat disappeared within a few weeks but she had the other one a while longer, four or five months. It would wander the neighborhood until she stepped out of a car at her dad’s home and then it would run to her and leap into her arms…until one day it didn’t come home anymore. A puppy her mom acquired was hit by a car…driven by her mother as she backed down the driveway. A pet rabbit died. Another dog didn’t come home and was discovered dead on the highway.
As I said, these two young girls have both had really bad times with pets, but they also have something else in common. The older of the two spent the first few years of her life in the home of her grandparents and remained closely attached to them, seeing them every day even after she and her mother moved into their own home. It was very hard on her when her Grandpa passed away.
The other little girl has lived part of her life with her beloved grandmother and a much larger chunk of her very young life in the house right next door. Now her grandmother is in the end stages of cancer; and we know that before she even starts school, this sturdy little girl will have to face the terrible burden of losing her Grandma.
When I think about these two little girls, both given such sadness while still very young, I wonder if God did not make plans for them to have a taste of grief with their pets to enable them to survive the greater loss of family members. We felt bad for each of them when they lost pets they had grown to love, but perhaps that led them to an understanding of death they would otherwise not have had. These children know when there is death, there is no coming back. They have learned that even though death engenders sadness, we can still go on and live as we did before and that after a while we stop being quite as sad as before. Perhaps those lost animals were God’s angels sent to sacrifice themselves for the sake of training these children in the ways of death.
God’s ways are mysterious and in our human limitation we cannot know why things happen as they do, but we believe that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord; so maybe–just maybe—that was part of His purpose.
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