Those who know me from Facebook know that we have (had) a four-legged family member named Bridget. She was a gift from a family member, and in a way, the still, small Voice as well.
All good things must end. Her season with us ended this week. I think, sadly for her, it took us too long to get to this point (and for the sweet, kind man who never got angry but did get her teeth). She was high energy, and our family just couldn’t adjust. My husband and I have health issues that leave us living life at a slower pace, and she just needed to be a ball of energy.
She was not euthanized. We made arrangements to send her back to her trainer. He is better physically than we are, and his even more rural area has far more to keep dogs happy than we do.
I know most major Christian denominations teach that animals have no souls. I also know from personal study of the Bible that the greater an animal’s sentience the less permitted we are to eat it. So I’m really hoping God has a special section of Heaven roped off for sentient animals that bring joy and life to humans.
Some day, we will have another four-legged family member because of all the lessons I’ve learned. It just won’t be today… or tomorrow… or next month…
As a writer, the best way for me to remember someone is to put into words what they’ve taught me. So here goes nothing…
Bridget Lesson 1: You cannot criticize what you haven’t experienced.
One of the life lessons the still, small Voice has had to work on with me throughout my life is not criticizing when I have no experience and I’m only on the outside looking in. This has applied two-fold.
First, I used to hate dog owners who couldn’t control their animals. Having had a dog now, I see sometimes it’s just a bad combination of personalities, and no one has the love or courage to sacrifice the relationship to put the animal in a more suitable home.
Second, I used to mock and reject dog owners who got weepy over past animals they’d lost or stories of their friends’ animals. Never to the people’s faces of course. The hardest one for me to swallow was a tech writing professor I had in grad school. He was a man’s man. He fished and he camped; I remember one class where he talked about wool and cotton and how wool was better in colder climates for camping.
But I will never forget the class where he described how his three large dogs had been killed (one poisoned, one slit throat, and I can’t remember the third) over high-end computer equipment while he was out. I will never forget his voice choking as he turned from our class and said, “I’d’ve given them the damn equipment for the dogs.” Now I understand.
Bridget Lesson 2: The still, small Voice sometimes has to use animals to communicate.
You would think I would remember Balaam, his donkey, and the angel. However, somehow, in today’s world, it never dawned on me the still, small Voice could do the same. Bridget gave me a model of obedience and joyful greeting and love that have changed me on a level no human could have (except maybe my husband, but I digress).
Bridget Lesson 3: Don’t leave your post.
From the time the trainer dropped her at our house, Bridget never wanted to leave–not for the vets, not for grooming, not for boarding, not even to walk in the park. She fought to do her job as she perceived it. She would get all droopy and even quiver at times when we’d ask her to leave the house even for just a little bit. We actually as a family had to work with her to try to teach her how to play like a dog and relax.
Bridget Lesson 4: Idolatry is very easy to slip into.
My still, small Voice is supposed to be the only thing I trust. I’m not supposed to have confidence in anything else: not my intellect, not the government, not the dog. It was so easy to feel calm assurance when I heard Bridget bark or prance or pace at 2 am. I could sleep (as long as the stray cats didn’t cry like babies) knowing the dog would take care of my family if something bad happened. But that calm assurance turned into an unhealthy reliance, and I forgot at times to acknowledge the Creator of the created. So, with Bridget gone, I am going to have to revisit some lessons on trust and boundaries and common sense security.
Bridget Lesson 5: The hardest part of love is letting go.
Bridget did so much for my family.
My oldest found her life’s calling as the trainer taught us how to handle Bridget.
My middle found a way to tease the oldest by simply going into the room with the wrong, high-energy body language.
My youngest learned to make eye contact by working with Bridget.
As an abuse survivor trying to be alpha to a dog with Bridget’s personality, I learned to have my own voice and take back my power; I walk straighter, look people in the eye, and ensure my words communicate the kind of authority they need to. The dog’s “disappearance” also gave me some openings to talk with my kids about some tough things like trauma and abuse and rape and kidnapping and how to respond.
But for all the lessons she was teaching us, we still were not the right place for her to be. So we had to let her go.
So Bridget, when the time comes, you cross that Rainbow Bridge and don’t look back. You’ve been good and faithful, but we just couldn’t give you what you needed. And somehow, if the land at the end of the Rainbow Bridge happens to meet with our heaven, meet me when my time comes if the Great Alpha will allow it.