Grief and Puppies


It’s been one of those weeks.

Actually, one of those months.

Well, thinking back now, it’s been one of those summers.

Disappointment, grief, disbelief, sadness, anger, confusion, fear. Multiple areas and in different degrees

Sometimes there are downsides to social networking. From the looks of what covers my Facebook news feed, everyone has really enjoyed a fun-filled, refreshing, wonderful summer. We aren’t in that category this time. But I’m genuinely happy for those that are.


It’s not been all bad. Sprinkled throughout the darkness I find glimpses of grace and hope. So thank you to so many who have prayed us through some rough times. Please keep those prayers coming.

I’ve been thinking about how pain and grief shape our souls and how we view and live life. Few are exempt from experiencing disappointment, loss and throw-your-hands-in the-air-bewilderment. I find myself drawn to people who aren’t afraid to move into grief. People who understand and have experienced pain. Jesus was described as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). There is a knowing through experience that produces safety.

Losing our dog, Max, so tragically opened my heart to grieve.  I’m just not good at sitting in grief. My go-to involves a fat heaping of denial and move-through-as-fast-as-possible and replace or numb out the uncomfortable and unfamiliar feelings that get stirred up when faced with loss. But this has been a summer of grief. So I grieved losing Max and all that he meant to our family. It also gave space for me to grieve other things that I keep pushing down.

  • Remnants of post cancer emotions.
  • Lingering challenges of health related stuff like having lymphadema.
  • The bittersweet “last time” of everything my oldest will walk through as he heads into his senior year of high school.
  • The now and the not yet of working in ethnic ministry.
  • A lot of other things that are not blog appropriate

Grief is a gift from God. A way to work through the emotions and come to a place to make space and take in the new without losing the good in what was lost. I learned from Debbie (of the Awesome Threesome), that grief doesn’t happen linearly. The stages of grief don’t happen exactly in order. Sometimes new losses open up unfinished grief in unrelated areas. There isn’t a “right way” to move through grief. Along the way things can trigger emotions that sometimes feel as strong as the initial devastation.

My dear friend from church, Lisa, asked me the first week of August if we were in a place to think about getting a new dog. Her husband, Allen, had a friend from work who knew someone with purebred German Shepard puppies almost weaned and ready for a new home. Truth is, I had been on the internet looking at shelters and rescue dogs. I just wanted to numb out, replace, or stop the awful emotions of loss and grief. Bottom line–I wasn’t ready.

Darrin and I checked in with the kids the third week after losing Max. As we talked as a family it soon became apparent that we were ready but the boys weren’t ready yet. Darrin could see that the boys needed more time since they were the ones who saw Max injured, bleeding and had to take him to the vet and then to animal urgent care. They displayed impressive maturity, but the event was traumatic.

As we moved into the fourth week, Lisa checked in again and I told the family about the puppies. The interest was growing. So we asked for more information and pictures. We opened the door to the possibility. But then a text came back with news that all the puppies were already adopted out. I was only mildly disappointed but Julia cried. I had looked at a dog rescue site and contacted some of the volunteers about their dogs. We talked again as a family about taking advantage of the time before school starting to get a new dog and having more time to help transition and get to know a dog while the schedule was relatively free.

Then a few days ago Lisa texted me. When their friend went to go pick up his puppy, there was ONE LEFT! Were we interested? More conversations and talking. Yes. We were ready. And interested.

God has been kind to us.

Allen, along with his three daughters picked the puppy up from Monrovia since they were in the area on Saturday. Their daughter texted us a picture of our puppy. I. Fell. In. Love. Tears of love and gratitude in my eyes. He was above and beyond what I expected.

Three nights ago Allen, Lisa (now god-dog parents) and their daughters carried our puppy into his new home in a cardboard box. We named him Koa. It’s a Hawaiian name for fearless, brave and strong. He’s ten weeks old.

Koa is an absolute delight.

I remember hearing Carolyn Custis James teach for the first time about the book of Ruth. Her book, “The Gospel of Ruth” is a must read. She spoke of how Naomi was like a female Job in the Bible. Both Naomi and Job lost everything and in the end God restored their families and children. But what she said struck me in an entirely new way.

“It’s obvious to anyone who has experienced a significant loss that the sorrows of this world and the wounds they inflict in our souls cannot be compensated no matter how much good fortune and prosperity come our way…To suggest that everything balanced out in the end for Naomi is to trivialize both her sufferings and also what God is trying to teach us through her story.” (Gospel of Ruth, page 198)

Carolyn put it together for me in a way I hadn’t understood before. Job and Naomi never stopped missing the children they lost. Ever. And even though the outcome of their lives may look like everything turned out “happily ever after” their pain and loss was never removed.

And so in my own little life I am learning about grief, loss and pain. We welcome Koa with open arms and hearts ready to love him deeply, but this side of heaven the pain and loss of losing Max will never be removed. And as with all things grief related, there are often more questions than answers. Life doesn’t tie up nicely. Grief can bring us to deeper places of intimacy, but if left unprocessed can lead to resentment and other emotional cancers.

And so we hold two things simultaneously from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Grief and puppies.

Vivian Mabuni