I Wanted My Dog Dead

“But I’m Finding Compassion Instead”

I’ve threatened to kill Luna.

I’ve cursed her name. I’ve smacked her on the butt a few times in her life. Oh, and maybe kicked her lightly once as she went out the door.

Luna is the family dog. Throughout the 13 years of her life with us, she has deposited pee, poop, puke, and piles of her white fur on every inch of my floors and carpets. Her fur is woven into the upholstery as well as into my clothing, especially my favorite black polar fleece jacket, a magnet for her stiff white hairs.

In the family we like to say that Luna has been everywhere we have been, all over the world, really. Her hair is in our suitcases and guitar cases, on our coat sleeves and the soles of our shoes. I have had a hard time finding compassion for this animal. As far as I go, try as I may, I can’t get away from Luna.

finding compassion learning lessons for graceful aging from my dog
Young Luna with my youngsters

We all loved her from the start. She was so sweet and shy when we rescued her as a puppy. The kids and I thought her shyness would melt with our love. The people at the shelter said she’d been found in a ditch, possibly abused and abandoned. We all showered our cream-colored pup with affection as we brought her up in the safety and security of our family.

Thirteen years later, she still flinches at quick-reaching hands and threatens to bite those hands that have fed, petted, and thrown countless tennis balls across the lawn. She’s an emotional wreck when any family member comes home — doing her weird whiny throat yodel — as if she’s surprised we haven’t abandoned her. Lunacy! Her defensiveness and neuroses are mysteries we may never understand.

All The Rage

Now that she’s older, she’s decided to potty-train in reverse. I am finding fresh pee stains on my new shag carpet. She can’t hold it as she used to, and she seems confused by body signals that used to tell her to go outside.

So it’s back in the kennel at night and when we go out, the one we used for potty-training when she was a puppy. I’ve even purchased some doggy diapers at the pet supermarket. As I run the vacuum, I realize that her fur accounts for 85% of the dirt I’ve sucked up for 13 years. Why do I even have dogs in my house?

And as I watch her age, my rage grows. It’s not just the fresh pee or the perennial fur. Luna is the embodiment of all that I cannot control.

We’re both getting older. And we’re both wearing out.

We spend a lot of time together now that the kids have grown up and out of the house. In the mornings, she’s a little leg-stiff. Me, too. We both hobble out of our beds and head outside to scan for life on the lawn. Squirrels and birds scatter as we step onto our mossy grass and sniff the wind. We find a comfortable seat and settle in, staying out there under the trees all day when it’s warm. We like to go for afternoon walks in the woods with our other dog, sweet (non-shedding) Josie. We keep moving even though it would be easier to sit still.

 

finding compassion learning lessons for graceful aging from my dog
A walk in the woods with Josie and Luna

Graceful Aging

Luna was a great athlete in her youth. Her sport of choice: Tennis Ball. She awed everyone with her soaring mid-air catches. Our joy was in recognizing her joy, the embodiment of doing exactly what she was created to do: run, leap, land, and loop back to do it all again. And again. And again. And again.

Perhaps too many rough landings led to those shaky back legs of hers. I admire how, even now, she’ll surge after a squirrel, though she’ll pay for it in pain later.

I can sometimes see her attributes:

  • She stays clean and white and doesn’t smell bad.
  • She cleans sweet Josie’s eyes and ears.
  • She accepts each day as it comes and lives in the moment.
  • She doesn’t seem to worry about what the future holds.

I’m trying to learn from Luna. Soon enough, one of us will die, and the odds are against her.

My brother’s dog, Annie, died last month. He and his family are heartbroken. She’d been a part of their family for a long time. I think I would miss Luna if she died today.

Finding Compassion

She has become a mirror for me. After years of our love/hate relationship, I have reached a new awareness: If I can learn to find compassion for this dog, perhaps I can find some for myself.

Luna teaches me to get creative with aging. Some new tricks I am learning:

  • Bending over again and again to clean her mess offers me a constant choice of cursing versus gratitude.
  • Scratching her favorite spot behind her ears gives me pause to recall the years of walking this dog with my husband, kids, grandma, and neighbors.
  • Pondering the love she accepts and gives prompts me to remember the love I get and give away, too.
  • Finding compassion when she flinches for no good reason helps me acknowledge my own flinching fears, still with me after all of these years.

Something tells me I’m never going to get control of all the chaos in my life, whether it’s dog crap or my own crap. In fact, I suspect I will have less control over normal things, the older I get.

Strange how we often end the way we start: a little unsteady and needing a close eye. Like infants and the elderly, dogs like Luna often just want a little love, patience, and compassion.

I had never intended to kill Luna. I guess I don’t really want her dead.

She’s out on the porch now, barking at me through the glass, demanding to come in. Today, I will open the door and scratch her ears as she enters, offering an extra dose of love. She’ll thank me with a grunt and a shake, depositing a fresh sprinkling of her lovely white fur on my freshly-vacuumed rug.

Read next: Closer To Free

27 thoughts on “I Wanted My Dog Dead

  1. I can totally relate. We have 3 Chihuahuas; Padre 13, Maximus 11, Buddy 10. Little Padre is now deaf and has cataracts in his eyes. However, he always licks Maxi’s eyes and ears every chance he gets. When we go for a walk, Padre is always lagging behind. He likes laying right by the heat register to warm himself. We love our dogs as they offer us unconditional love each and every day.

    I am noticing that my body is not as young and limber as it used to be. Stiffness, aches and pains and other conditions are starting to creep up. But it’s OK. I have worked hard and deserve to slow down a little. Hopefully I will continue to be able to be active and not stop as I age.

  2. Thank you for posting this. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety issues lately, and reading this has somehow helped a little bit.

  3. We too have an old dog. He has an enlarged heart and has trouble breathing sometimes. I feel that we are growing old together. He requires a lot of extra work (and medication) at this point in his life, but we think he is worth it.
    Hopefully there will be someone there for me when I require some extra work…in the meantime I will remember the things you point out above and I will be grateful for this animal that loves us unconditionally (and continue to vacuum on a regular basis: -) Thanks for the reminder Christine.

  4. Love this! We have Lexi who we lovingly? call devil dog. She was my mother in laws dog, and I promised we would care for Lexi as my mother in law battled cancer. Lexi’s been with us now 2 1/2 years. Sometimes it’s a struggle to love Lexi, but I want to honor the joy she brought to my mother in law. Lexi reminds me that God loves me when I’m not lovable. Thank you for this post.

  5. My wife always tells me that we have no idea of the trouble in the lives of the people that look so perfect. My wife used to live a life of introspective torment. She is a very peaceful happy person on the outside. And she hates to inconvenience or trouble anyone. So she kept all of her distress private for years and decades. I would know a little bit about it as glimpses of distress would manifest in tortured eruptions of crying that was greatly muffled because the crying might make me feel uncomfortable. It all culminated last year with a deep depression in my wife that cost her her job and 5 months in bed. After 5 months, almost a year ago to the day, she told me that she didn’t feel as bad as she had yesterday. This was the beginning of her healing. She couldn’t do much, she couldn’t work, she couldn’t clean the house she still couldn’t really cook. And so she said as I am trying to get better what can I do? 30 years ago she gave up her music because of her love for our new child. We have old 4-track recordings of her doing vocals, and our children would be talking in the background. She knew that music wasn’t going to be possible, as her love for her children was growing and taking over in prominence. So 30 years later as she was coming out of her depression she asked me what can I do as I try to get better? I said do what you know how to do, and that’s write music. So she taught herself how to use a DAW. The first round of music that she wrote was for herself. It was all about addressing how thoughts lead to beliefs which lead to behaviors. She was trying to overcome her need to control everything around her and yet nothing around her with seemingly in her control. We have all of those original recordings, but since she was just learning to use digital mechanisms to record, she wasn’t as good with the technology she wanted to be and the recordings are not that great. She’s a perfectionist in this bothered her. So she kept writing and learning how to use the technology. A year away from the end of her depression has yielded new musical fruit. And in her latest song, are 14 year old son burst into the room and she was just finishing a recording and he was asking her a question about his Xbox. We’re going to leave that in as a ghost from the wonderful pastpast. I look forward to following your journey to healing and wholeness! Some of the music my wife is working on it’s listed on our website if you care to listen to it.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing; Love this and you for so many reasons -you have spared Shep’s life for yet another day, and he thanks you, too.

  7. I’ve always been prideful of the way my culture looks at aging. In India, a glorious crown of grey means wisdom, prosperity and a life well lived. It’s always evoked feelings of love, compassion & reverence.

    But now that it’s ME—- I’m the one with the wirey grey renegade hairs and stiff joints and legion other ailments and issues— it’s hard to extend grace to myself. I like the wording you used, “Practicing Compassion.” Yeah, that’s what I need to do- start practicing that for myself. Love your writing.

    Thanks Christine. XO

    • Ahh, yes, Karthi, so hard to give ourselves a break even though we gladly extend compassion to others. We’ll just have to keep reminding each other!

  8. The other day, I was at the store looking for men’s skin care products, and the lady at the counter recommended a particular product to me. After explaining that it could help reduce wrinkles (!) etc, she asked me if I wanted to get it. I said, “Okay, might as well, since I’m getting older and this might come in useful!”.

    She looked at me in horror and said – Sir, you cannot use that word. You must say you are getting more elegant!

    So…here’s to all of us becoming more elegant! 🙂

  9. Why is it that other people’s projects are more appealing to work on? Why does it seem easier to offer advice than take the hard, soul searching look at ourselves? After a considerable lifetime, I’ve got more questions than answers. It is helpful to read and listen to others open up in ways we have not yet gained the courage to. Write on!

  10. Hi Christine,
    Thank you for reminding me to love our dog Milo. He is so needy and insecure and annoys me constantly, but also so cute and extremely happy to see us EVERY single time we come home….as if he had been waiting forever to see us. I have a love/hate relationship with him. I sometime fantasize about leaving the front door open and letting him roam. Btw, Richie only loves him! lol! I love your insights and I love the way you write. It encourages me a lot. Thank you for the reminder that God loves us even when we are annoying, needy and insecure.

    • Ha ha, well said, Amy! Thanks for reading. Give Milo a big hug from me–oh, and Richie too 🙂

  11. I have long believed that the unconditional love from pets (especially dogs) is the closest real world example of the unconditional love we see from Christ. Our pets tend to be our biggest fans – they don’t care what our hair, make up, or clothes look like. They don’t care if we have gained weight or our skin has gone haywire. Whether we walk through the door after a long day or just putting mail in the mail box they give us the “standing ovation.” And they steal our hearts…whether we admit it or not. I still have dreams of our two shelties – our tomboy dog Sandy and our special needs dog Shelley. Good daily advice to follow: wag more – bark less. Ha!

  12. Yes, I agree–we get to see unconditional love from our dogs (and sometimes cats)! I still dream about my cat from when I was a kid.

  13. I can so relate to what you wrote about Luna. But my experience was with our cat, Professor. This cat hated me. She never warmed up to me, nor me to her. She was my husband’s cat, and if she could terminate me, I was convinced she would. What I learned from her, never turn your back on me, I’ll bounce on you at any time. This house is my house, I allow you to live here. And my husband is the best thing since sliced bread, you are in the way, let me help you pack your bags. She had so much character, and she was boss. Even our other cat Sasha knew who was boss in this house. Then Professor got sick, really sick and in March of this year we had to put her down. While we sat in a room at the vet clinic, we knew our time with her was coming to an end. I was a mess. I know this is part of the responsibility of being a pet owner, but this cat didn’t even like me. Why was I so emotional? But in her own ways she knew we were taking care of her and in many ways our relationship in that short amount of time grew and compassion grew. I couldn’t help but think how many times I behave like Professor, wandering off, doing my own thing, thinking I know what I’m doing, I’m boss. I got this. But he continues to forgive, extend grace and mercy to me and allows me to learn and grow. Funny how much animals can teach us.

    • Miriam, you said so much with that story! I don’t know how you could live with that cat. And yet, how do the people who love us live with us sometimes? Thanks for a great reminder of the unfolding grace of God throughout our lives–even including our dear pets.

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