We are sad he’s gone, but we have a lot to be grateful for.

Not only were we able to cancel the dreaded appointment to put him down on Christmas Eve, he rallied and acted like himself for three bonus days. He played outside with the kids, he raised his eyebrow at us with his signature comical glances, and he even ate like a horse, which he hadn’t done in months.

saying goodbye to the family dog

We always knew he wouldn’t live forever. Yes it is something I’ll take up with God someday, but I know that on earth, dog’s life spans are short compared to humans, even German Shorthair Pointers, who happen to be the best surprise birthday present I personally have ever received.

After all my fretting about how long we should let him suffer, on New Year’s Day, it became crystal clear that it was time to say goodbye.

The kids are handling it way better than I expected (maybe because we had a few months to prepare them for what was coming).

Nothing about his short life will be forgotten because I took a pathological amount of pictures of him. They capture every nuance of his personality.

saying goodbye to the family dog

And last but certainly not least, it’s good to know he’s playing wild and free with his best doggy buddies and cousins, who went to heaven before him.

But as anyone who has ever lost a pet knows, the heartache is real.

Until they’re gone, you don’t realize how interwoven into your life they were. So much so that you think about them every fifteen seconds.

I miss him when I come home and he’s not bounding at me full speed, at bedtime when I see the empty Lightning McQueen chair he used to curl up in next to the boys’ beds; My heart aches when I get out of the shower and don’t see him waiting to lick the water off my legs even though I always thought that was a strange habit. I grieve when I see his paw prints still fresh in the snow and when the kids drop an ice cream cone and he isn’t there to snatch it up. I could go on and on and on …

The kids get sad about him when they hop in the car after school and he’s not there, which of course breaks my heart.

Saying goodbye to the family dog

That being said! Anyone who has ever loved an animal will tell you:

Dogs are worth the inevitable pain of missing them. Losing them doesn’t take away all the love they bring into our lives.

In fact, losing them highlights the gift of them.

It’s like in black and white photography, we see the light sometimes best when it’s juxtaposed with darkness.

So here is what I learned about life from the loss of our beloved dog, Sam.

saying goodbye to the family dog

Cherish simple pleasures

A snack, a squirrel to chase, squeezing onto the couch with us…that’s all it took to make Sam the happiest dog on planet earth.

Prioritize play

Sam’s lighthearted approach to life was a true joy and inspiration.

Embody purity

How many humans have achieved a dog’s state of natural goodness in all that they do? It’s a worthwhile goal.

Love unconditionally

Sam was a master of forgiveness. No matter how many times the kids stole attention he wanted or rode him like a bucking bronco, his patience never wavered.

saying goodbye to the family dog

Be overprotective

Sam often placed himself in between the kids and a potential “threat” (like the UPS guy trying to deliver a package). This only made his love for us more deeply felt.

Embrace your flaws

Sam was extremely gullible. All you had to do was meow somewhere in the house, and he’d frantically search for the rogue cat who’d broke in.  He also was terrified of water, extremely clumsy and bad at playing fetch. (Even though he was technically a “hunting dog”) Oh how endearing those qualities were in our guy!

Laugh a lot

Sam had some classic ironic glances that truly made our days; he teased us for our foibles as much as we joked about his.

Cherish physical presence 

With his velvety ears and hulking silky body, what a comfort it was to have our Sam Dog near. Even when he lost abilities towards the end, his presence was a gift to our family.

saying goodbye to the family dog

Take on challenges

The joy Sam brought to our family 100% outweighs the early morning wake-up calls he was famous for – he was worth it, just like any endeavor of the heart.

Life goes on

Every day it gets easier to live without Sam – I even find myself thinking about adding a new puppy to the family.

Who knows? Maybe God gives dogs a shorter life span than humans so we can love more of them throughout our lives. Or maybe it’s to train us for the reality that death is a natural part of life.

Have you lost a beloved family pet? How did you and your kids handle it? What are your favorite memories of him or her? 


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  1. LT Slimm January 22, 2016 at 8:03 am #

    We have not experienced the loss of a family dog yet, but our dear girl turns 9 today and the changes in her over this year have been hard not to notice. I know that as a chocolate lab she is nearing the end of her life span, especially with some of her health issues and I dread the day we have to say bye. She is our second child, she always thought of our oldest son as her litter mate and then we had 2 more boys after she was adopted and she has always treated them like her pups. I needed to read your article today, on her birthday, as I know that my family will have to get through this loss together sooner then later. Thank you for sharing, I am going to use your article to help my boys through it when the time comes.

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