Introduction and Insight - A Commentary by Dr. Galka
I have been a practicing veterinarian since 1978, and have dealt with the passing of our 4 footed family members on almost a daily basis. I have cried with uncounted numbers of clients over the years, as they have said their good byes to their beloved animals. The hope that I can share with you is that these good byes are not a forever farewell if you are a Christian, and therefore know that your eternal destination is Heaven. Our animal companions automatically go to Heaven when their time on Earth is through, and I will refer you to many Bible passages that prove the truth of this statement.
We have different relationships with each animal with whom we share our lives. Some we are more deeply bonded to than others; no two relationships are ever the same, just as with our human relationships. Some animals are buddies to us. Pets that we pal around with. Some people view their animals as furry children. I fall into this category, and often use the terms “dogkid”, “catkid”, “dogchild”, or “dogson/daughter” when referring to my animals. This type of relationship is even documented in the Bible, in 2 Samuel 12:3, where a man is described as loving his pet lamb as though she was his daughter. This verse is of great comfort to me, to realize that God doesn’t think it wrong or unusual to love our animal companions in this manner. Some people are fortunate enough to have a relationship with an animal that is all of the above rolled into one-best friend, child, buddy and an extra dimension that I describe as being “soulmates” as well. Those of us who have been blessed with this type of “soulmate” relationship with an animal friend are the most vulnerable to becoming stuck in the grieving process when the inevitable separation from that loved one occurs. Those of us who have been blessed to experience this type of “soulmate” connection with an animal companion sense that the years we share with that animal are golden, and perhaps even sacred. We live with the bittersweet knowledge that, as Robert Frost declared: “nothing gold can last”.
My purpose in sharing with those of you who are grieving the loss of a beloved animal companion is to give you hope that the golden moments given by God to you and your animal are not lost forever…the golden times will be restored to us, and even purified and perfected on the Other Side when we reconnect with our loved ones. There is an “inner knowing”, or an “internal hope” that has much Biblical support to provide assurance that “the best is yet to come” in regard to our relationships with our animal companions.
Grieving the loss of an animal friend can be more difficult than the grief process associated with losing human loved ones. There are a number of reasons why this is true. Very often there is not much (if any) emotional support given by human friends and family when a beloved animal dies. The general attitude is that “it is ‘just’ a dog (or cat, bird, horse, etc) so get over it”. When you do not have an understanding support team to help you through the grief, it takes longer and is a lonely path to travel. It is at this juncture on the journey that we need to trust in God’s love most of all, and yet this is the time that it is hardest to believe in God’s love for us and our beloved animal.
Another reason that grieving the loss of an animal can be more traumatic than grieving the loss of a human loved one is that our animals remain dependent on us for their entire lifetime. They perpetually remain as young children in our relationship with them. They do not ‘grow up’ and leave the nest. When they leave us, they leave us due to death, and that separation is, of course, the hardest form of separation to deal with. And of course another reason revolves around the aspect of unconditional love and acceptance that is provided by our animal companions in a way that is rarely experienced with our human loved ones.
Our animals belong to God, and He has made eternal provision for every living creature that belongs to Him. I have found many scriptures to verify this statement, and I incorporated these Bible passages in a book I wrote in 1998, titled “God’s Covenant with the Animal Kingdom”. Over the years I used this book to (hopefully) provide comfort to clients when I found it necessary to perform euthanasia on their animals. I present my book here for those of you who are dealing with the sorrow of losing your beloved animal companion to death.
The chapter headings of my book are as follows:
“God’s Covenant with the Animal Kingdom” - scripture support of how much God loves and values the animals.
“The reality of Animal Sentience” - personal stories of animals proving that they think and feel in much the same manner as humans.
“The Soul Question” – scripture support that animals are spirit beings who possess a soul and live in a physical body, in the same manner as humans.
“Dealing with Death” – a personal account of a probable angel housed in a feline body who helped our family in the autumn of 1989 when my Grandmother passed away.
“Death and Saying Goodbye” – GRIEVING our loss, and BELIEVING God’s promises are compatible thinking processes.
“Dolphin Encounter” – my experience when I asked God to show me a sign that animals live on in the afterlife
“Reverence for Life” – closing thoughts and excerpts from some of Albert Schweitzer’s writings.
I pray that the contents of this manuscript provide comfort and assurance that our animals are loved by God in far greater measure than we humans are able to love. I know this can be a hard concept to fathom. It has taken me many years, and many tears, to come to terms with the realization that my animal children who have passed on are safe in God’s care, residing in a tangible place, and waiting for me to join them in a grand reunion that will last forever.
Companion Animal Care Corner
C.L. Galka-Agnew DVM
Grief Support, Hope, and Healing