“I think she’s having seizures. Can you come home?” The voice belonged to my wife. “It’s time,” she added.
The voice on the phone was telling me that the relationship we had with our 13-year-old schnauzer was about to end. It was time for us to put her down.
During my 30-minute drive home, I tearfully recalled with guilt an earlier day when I had become so frustrated over her incontinence and health problems I actually contemplated giving her to someone who could provide better care for her.
Relationships with our pets are fairly simple. And though pet lovers often see their pets as children, we all know children are much more complicated. I think that’s why I often see parents struggle with their own guilt as they’re faced with evaluating their relationship with a child.
Maybe your kid has done it all — drugs, sex, gangs and even murder, and you’re ready to give up on them. Or maybe your child never has done any of these things, yet you’re ready to give up because of the way he or she treats you or disrespects your faith or values.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is a story about Abraham and his son, Isaac. These are the two who went up the mountain skipping like Jack and Jill, but Abe was on a bizarre mission from God.
God told Abe to slay his son on that mountain to prove his faithfulness. At first glance, the story seems like the tale of a god with a borderline personality: He’s happy one moment and homicidal the next.
But ,of course, God’s not that way at all. There was a plan. Just before Abe was ready to slay his son, God provided a lamb in Isaac’s place.
To slay a son, one has to be prepared to slay one’s own image. Somehow, I think Abe learned that by relinquishing the image of himself that he had projected into Isaac. Isaac became free to become the much bigger person God had intended.
I knew a kid who folks said looked a lot like his father. Yet, he continued to disappoint his father each time the police showed up at their home and each time he was suspended for fighting at school.
So, the father began to relinquish the image he had for his son and released his care back to God. His son was allowed to make several more mistakes, but they were his mistakes, and they led him on his own faith journey.
And guess what? Once my dad let go, I turned out OK.
Relinquishing that image we’ve placed in our children can’t be done without practicing forgiveness. Anne Lamott, author of “Traveling Mercies,” says, “Families are the training ground for forgiveness. If you learn to forgive family, you can learn to forgive anyone. It’s like learning to drive a stick shift — after that, you can drive anything.”
A few months after that dreadful last visit to the vet, we got a new puppy.
The problem with puppies is they love to chew, and I’m already contemplating the cost of this new relationship.
His love for chewing through computer cables not only has caused me to contemplate a fate similar to what Abe had in mind, but it’s cost me nearly $200.
A least we’ve had no problem naming him. We call him Chewy.