I once knew it all, you know.

I cringe when I think of the many judgments I made on any given day, judgments I didn’t even know were judgments because they so sneakily pervaded my thoughts.

Many years ago, I remember a co-worker who was derailed by the loss of her precious Cocker Spaniel she purchased as a puppy. Her beloved Spaniel died at the age of thirteen and she was a mess.

I confess to a horribly judgmental thought.

I remember thinking, “For the love . . . it’s a DOG.”

Yes, I know. Naive. That was back when I thought I knew everything but really knew nothing.

Five years after that judgmental thought, I found myself in love with a man who was a new lover of Jesus. So was I.

He was divorced, a “starter marriage gone wrong.” So was I.

And he really wanted a yellow Labrador Retriever. So. Did. I.

I bought her eleven years ago for his thirtieth birthday.

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She was the cutest thing we had ever seen – we were in love even before we got home.

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There’s so much more to this story I’ll be telling in upcoming posts but the point is . . .

We had to put her down this past week and we are all devastated.

I now know what my co-worker was feeling when I so selfishly discounted her grief – as if grieving could only be reserved for humans.

I now know that we fall hard for our best friends. We take their presence for granted every moment but when they’re gone, they’re absence throughout the home is so unbearable you don’t even want to be there.

I now know that little annoyances, like the ever-present fur stuck to all Labrador owner’s possessions, are now small gifts of comfort, reminding us that she leaves a little and a lot behind.

I once vacuumed that fur relentlessly and should have purchased stock in Scotch, makers of the best lint brushes.

Now, I mourn for the day when that fur will run-out, when we will no longer find it attached to our clothes and ingrained in the carpet.

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Ellie’s death was unexpected and sudden – the worst possible kind.

When she was taken to the emergency vet this past Tuesday night, she had exhibited symptoms for only an afternoon – but by 8 p.m. she could no longer stand and her abdomen was horribly distended. She was also in a fog.

Jason arrived home to find her breathing heavily, unable to stand. After a few phone calls, it was clear she needed to go to the emergency vet. Luckily, we live minutes away from Purdue’s animal clinic – one of the best veterinary schools in the nation.

I took a few moments to love on her because the boys couldn’t go. Sarah, however, was ready to accompany her father. Such a brave, courageous nine year old girl.

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I took one last moment to kiss her gently in that place between her eye and ear, the place I’ve always loved to nuzzle. I lightly brushed my hand against her ears and spoke softly, telling her what a good girl she’s been to our family and how there will never be another like her. I told her how so very much I loved her, how she is my first baby and how I will miss her so.

Because I just knew she wasn’t coming home.

As Jason picked her up, I followed them to the door.

At the last minute, she raised her head and her tired, brown eyes locked with mine – a moment I’ll never forget.

An hour later, Jason called. It was cancer of the spleen and it had metastasized. A fast-developing and fast-spreading kind that doesn’t show any symptoms until it’s too late.

A tumor had ruptured and the fluid was building-up throughout her body.

Though we wanted to clutch her tight, we had to let her go.

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And we are devastated.

Yet through it all, I know He is with us. I have seen His work in all of the details – big and small.

The kennel that was full for Thanksgiving so she want along with us. Her big, eleventh birthday celebration in December. New toys and treats for Christmas.The walk Jason and she took on New Year’s Day morning for some fresh air. The pillow she was for Spencer just a few nights ago.

We had no idea that cancer was eating away inside but God did.

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So we’ve been talking a lot about rejoicing and praising when it’s good and rejoicing and praising when it’s not. We’ve been talking about grief and learning of the five stages. We’ve been talking about when we’ll be able to open up some space in our hearts for another silly clown of a lab – one that will never replace but rather be a testimony to the great-ness of the lovable pup who left such deep paw prints on our hearts.

When I posted and asked for prayer on Facebook last Tuesday, the response was overwhelming. So many of you have shared stories of losing sweet pets. I’m so sorry for your loss as well and so thankful you have spoken up to reassure me that we’re not alone.

Some people exercise through pain (wish I did.) Some people sketch through pain. Some people compose music through pain.

I write through pain.

So I will be writing for those of you who have walked this path and . . . for me.

Writing is how I make sense of the senseless.

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I would love for you to join me on the Facebook page, on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Pick your social media, friends. I would love to hear from you.

So through one of the above social media outlets, tell me . . .

Have you been through the hard death of a pet? What did you learn?