A righteous man regards the life of his animal… Proverbs 12:10
In the spring of 2006, my heavenly Father saw fit to plunge me into a season of grief and devastation, actual abandonment at the hand of one who had declared love, given me a ring as a token of promise, and led me to believe that he would stand with me for a lifetime of companionship for God’s glory. But after months of wedding planning (and life planning), a phone call was the means of rending. I don’t usually go into detail about that particular sidestory in my life without a specific purpose at hand, and today’s story requires that bit of information. The rending of my relationship with that fiancé meant not only the rending of an engagement, with all of its wedding-plans and life-plans, but the rending of my heart on a deeper level. I had already been through a long and heartbreaking story including abusive and manipulative “love” before this engagement, and this new abandonment left me reeling on an entirely different plane. The Lord had given, the Lord had taken away… blessed be His name.
I had no idea at the time how continually grateful I would eventually become for the gift of being abandoned just a handful of weeks before my anticipated wedding day. At the time, it was only devastation. I felt extremely alone.
Perhaps my journey to Dilly was thanks to some friends of mine from college, one who was on his way to becoming a veterinarian, suggesting that I get a puppy for a balm… how silly, a puppy to take the place of the husband and future I had anticipated? Oh no: I learned that it was not silly at all. My vet-training friend even helped me identify the breed of my dreams: papillon. An intelligent breed as sweet as butterflies. Before long, I found a breeder with two available puppies. We met in a WalMart parking lot, and I found an immediate solace in the presence of this tiny creature who bonded with me in a mere moment. Not a question in my mind: this little companion would be a balm, a joy, a giver of unconditional love ~ until death do us part.
Daffodil. I named her Daffodil, because when my childhood dog Goldie was laid to rest after 13 years, my mama gave me some daffodils as a spot of cheer. It was homage to a previous companion. I knew I would call her Dilly.
For over fifteen years, Dilly has been my companion: a breaker-of-bread-with-me. In fact, she has been the cleaner-up-of-my-crumbs! But as I now lay my little Dilly to rest and look back upon this sweet creature’s life, I see her purpose. The very reason for which God created her.
She was not some random accident upon which I stumbled in a WalMart parking lot when my heart was broken and my tears needed dried. God created her to be a balm for me. Realizing that, in those words, just this week is very humbling. Daffodil was made with the purpose of comforting me, used by my good heavenly Father to succor as a tangible grace in my times of need.
Dilly reminded my heart, as did my parents, that love can be unconditional and real. She was someone to snuggle at night while I slept, a new life on which I could focus during the days, an energetic ball of fluff and joy. She was the bridge which kept me from being swept downstream until the Lord brought Steven into my life. And her presence honestly kept me calm during the anxiety of my new engagement and wedding planning and college graduation just one year later.
And then I didn’t need her to share my bed, because God brought me my husband. So a portion of her purpose was fulfilled.
And then I was pregnant. And then my baby died. And while my husband was a comfort during the nights, it was my Dilly who was the comfort during the days. God had created Dilly to be that tangible grace when I again needed succored through devastation. And oh, she was delighted with the fat gift of Gabriel after another year! Puppy and baby together were lights in my life. Until the miscarriages began to pile up, and the cracks in my heart multiplied and deepened.
Dilly wouldn’t ask questions or put her foot in her mouth (except she was an actual dog, so she literally did), but was a quietly understanding presence when I sobbed my eyes out. With my husband away at work and a thousand emotions complicating my young motherhood of my toddler son, it was my little dog that God used in some very dire moments to be His grace to me. And so another portion of her purpose was fulfilled. Nine times more.
Sometimes a dog might simply be a watchdog to keep away the hawks and foxes from the chickens or the coyotes away from the lambs or the burglars away from the sleep-filled home. And Dilly often thought she was bigger than her actual britches, ready to take on a full grown Angus in our cow pasture. Tiny but terrible, sparks in her soul, she kept vigil; and I have been grateful. (Thank goodness her bark was reliable and never yappy. Even that was a gift.) But Daffodil was not meant to be just a watchdog or keeper of things or protector of creatures. She was meant to be my balm. And I raised her, honestly, along with my children (2 Samuel 12:3).
So now as I look back over the 15+ years God lent her to me, I praise His name for this gift. Before my home was filled with the pitter patter of little feet and the constant noise of children, He blessed me with the clicking of her nails on my wood floor and the jingling of a tiny bell against the name tag on her collar. Before my bed was filled with the body and warmth of my husband, God gave me a tiny pup to curl up with on lonely nights. Before my toddler knew how to dry my tears with his blankie as I bled out after yet another miscarriage, Dilly knew how to silently curl up in my lap and lick my cheeks as I sat curled up on the bathroom floor, oceans streaming down my face.
It has been a slow process of her purpose being fulfilled. A lifetime. Only very recently have I noticed at all that I honestly no longer need her comfort, her solace, her tender presence in the absence of other love. God has brought me a family. He has made me a mother. He has given me such purpose. My hands are blessedly full. The cracks in my heart have largely scarred over.
And so the purpose for which He created my Dilly has been fulfilled.
My heart is grateful. For the kindness of God in making this dog for me. For the ways she has blessed my heart and filled my life. For the joy she gave my children. For the energy she brought my home. For the clean kitchen floors. For the rinse cycle on my dinner plates.
The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away. Blessed be His name.
God has cared for Dilly (Luke 12:6), even as He used her to care for me.
Rest in peace, Daffodil May. The Lord has been good to us. Amen.
King of Creation, here was Your good creature. And here were the spaces and the days we shared, enjoying the glad company and cheerful fellowship of a fellow creature. We made room in our lives, room in our home, room in our hearts, to welcome Your unique creation. And we gave Your good creature the name Daffodil. We were filled with a right and fond affection for another living thing Your hands had made, delighting daily in her presence. We are grateful for the life that was, for the gift of a living thing so easily loved. You are merciful and loving, gentle and compassionate, caring tenderly for all that You have made. We know that the final working of Your redemption will be far-reaching, encompassing all things in heaven and on earth, so that no good thing will be lost forever, so that even our sorrow at the loss of this beloved creature will somehow, someday, be met and filled, and, in joy, made forever complete. Comfort us in this meantime, O Lord, for the ache of these days is real. Amen.
~Every Moment Holy, excerpts from A Liturgy for the Loss of a Living Thing~