Remembering Shadow

Remembering Shadow

Shadow’s last photo, taken one day before his death.

When I began my original draft of this blog post one week ago, I was happy and hopeful in the belief that Shadow’s health was stabilizing and that we’d have him with us awhile longer. But the very next day—Wednesday, January 10—he took a sudden and dramatic turn for the worse, and within hours we made the painful decision to end his suffering.

The changes began a few days before Christmas. Something about Shadow seemed “off” to me, but he was still eating well and otherwise acting normally for a 16- or 17-year-old dog who likes to sleep most of the time. But when we arrived home from Christmas Eve candelight services, we found him in severe distress. When he couldn’t get himself up off the floor to greet us, I knew something was terribly wrong. I called the emergency veterinary clinic, and after I described his symptoms—weakness, swelling around his face and chest area, rapid breathing—they said to bring him in immediately.

As soon as we arrived, they took him to be examined, while we waited anxiously out front. By the time the doctor called us in to discuss his condition, we had prepared ourselves for the worst. “It’s heart failure,” she told us. She wanted to do a procedure to drain the fluid from around his lungs and heart, then start him on diuretics and blood pressure meds. She said this wasn’t a cure but assured us once the meds took effect, he could continue living a fairly normal life.

Honestly, we had our doubts. Were we doing the right thing by going ahead with the procedure? Would it be kinder to say our goodbyes and let him go peacefully? But it was now Christmas Day, and I did not want my Christmas memories to be forever darkened by the loss of one of the sweetest, most loyal dogs I’ve ever had the joy of calling family.

We left Shadow at the clinic for the procedure, then returned later on Christmas morning to pick him up. He couldn’t even walk across the lobby and had to be carried out to the car. My heart was breaking the whole time, wondering how Shadow could ever come back from this. But we diligently started him on the meds, coaxed him to eat, and used a sling to support him down the six steps to the backyard every few hours to take care of business.

Shadow in his younger years, only a few days after we adopted him.

Day by day, Shadow grew stronger. Within only a few days, he wasn’t even waiting for me to help him down the steps and could make it back up all by himself! He continued to follow me wherever I went around the house. He got excited about meals and treats. Tail wagging, he greeted us at the back door whenever we returned after being out. Eventually he was able to climb a full flight of stairs to be with me in my office, where he napped beside my writing chair as he did for all the years we had him.

I’d known for the last few years that we couldn’t expect Shadow to be with us much longer. Now, I’m just grateful we had those two extra weeks after Christmas to enjoy his presence before saying that final goodbye. I’m comforted, too, by the fact that theologians including Martin Luther and The Reverend Billy Graham believe that our beloved pets may also be with us in heaven.

The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made His greatest gifts the commonest. —Martin Luther

God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there. —Billy Graham

Be thou comforted, little dog. Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail. —Martin Luther

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. —C.S. Lewis

You think dogs will not be in heaven? I tell you, they will be there long before any of us. —Robert Louis Stevenson

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.Job 12:10 (NIV)

 

And the late Herbert Brokering, a dear and brilliantly creative man who will always be special to our family, penned two charming books: 

Dog Psalms: Prayers My Dogs Have Taught Me

and

More Dog Psalms: Prayers My Dogs Have Taught Me

 

Finally, if you’d like to read the story of how Shadow came to be a part of our family in September of 2004, you can find it here.

4 Comments

  1. January 18, 2018, 2:50 pm   /  Reply

    Oh, amen and amen. We will see him in heaven. Hugging you from a far and shedding a tear for Shadow. He shall be missed. XOXO

    • Myra Johnson
      January 18, 2018, 2:54 pm   /  Reply

      Thank you, Tina!

  2. February 2, 2018, 8:41 am   /  Reply

    Oh, my! Myra, I’m so sorry I missed this! Imagine my arms around you, hugging you from afar. I’m so, so sorry for your loss.

    Having lost a beloved companion years ago, I understand the tender spot that remains. I’m praying for you! {{{HUGS}}}

    It’s my belief that you will see Shadow again in Heaven.

    • Myra Johnson
      February 2, 2018, 10:04 am   /  Reply

      Thank you, Cynthia! Each day is a little better, but we still have our weepy moments when a memory tugs at our hearts. Shadow was a very special little doggy!

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