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I know. Dogs can be predators.
So when my dog, who according to her DNA results is just 12.5% terrier, killed a muskrat, I should have been prepared. But I was not.
Not prepared for the feelings of shock, anger, guilt, sadness, helplessness…all of it. My dog. My dog who lets me kiss her soft belly and her whiskered lips.
I immediately thought of how I should have prevented it. I should not have let her go over the snowy embankment and down into the gully. There was shallow open water there; clearly her nose had twitched because something had piqued her interest. But she had gone down there before…and I had made a point of looking every time we walked past and there was never anything. But not this time.
I yelled. She did come back to me but it was too late. I stood there staring at her. She stared back at me, uncertain about what I’d do next. I was so angry I could barely breathe. I leashed her up and took her back to the car and drove home in what could only be described as a “blind rage” — I could barely see the road ahead of me, my hands gripped the wheel like my life depended on it, I turned off the radio so we drove in silence, it was as if the tires were not even touching the pavement. I refused to look her way and after a while, she felt the chill and let out a whimper. When we got home, even though it was her dinner time, I didn’t feed her* but rather went straight to bed and cried.
I cried for the muskrat, who was minding his own business. I cried for us, because she had lost the innocence that bound us. I cried for every animal that I’d ever seen hurt or killed. I cried for the other dogs I’d lost. I cried for my own losses and all my disappointments. I cried for my Dad whose death I relive regularly. I cried for friends who are hurting. I cried for the world that has so much hate and vitriol in it right now. I cried because I felt exhausted from the emotion.
I wondered about my capacity to forgive. Could I forgive the dog I loved? Was she now forever tarnished …. a bloodthirsty killer. I surely took responsibility for that.
Could I ever find grace. Grace. That elusive quality that signifies emotional peace and tranquility. Grace. The thing for which everyone aches. According to the theologian John Stott, “Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.”
I thought about my childhood nightly dinners and how my father always said “grace” before we could lift the food into our mouths. It was a ritual that seemed archaic to me. But today I think of it as an expression of our human frailty and the fragility of our existence. That we could lose everything in an instant - to be grateful for that moment and what we had, what we were. In the blink of an eye. In the glint of teeth. We are alive and happy until suddenly we’re not.
And while we’re at it, how about redemption? Was it she, my dog, who needed redemption or was it me? Could she have been anything different? So it’s me then.
1. an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed
2. deliverance; rescue
3. Theology deliverance from sin; salvation
4. atonement for guilt
We’re both rescues. And rescued. I forgave her. I am working on forgiving myself.
* I did feed her later.