He Was Always With Us…

As I took Aberdeen outside for the last time on Wednesday night, I stood on the cold, dark patio and sobbed as I watched him feebly sniff the ground around him. In that moment, he was a frail, sad shadow of his former self, but also the embodiment of eighteen and a half years of profound joy, undying loyalty, and unending friendship.

And while I knew I would be sad, I didn’t expect to be so heartbroken.

We were newlyweds when we bought our Miniature Schnauzer for $350 in 1998. As naïve early 20-somethings, who didn’t make much money, we overdrafted our checking account that month. But in our minds, Aberdeen was going to be our trial run at having a baby. And when our first born was old enough to understand, I told her that Aberdeen had been in mommy’s tummy when she was in mommy’s tummy! This was a joke I played on our subsequent two kids as well. Aberdeen was one of our children. And even leading up to his final days, we still referred to him as our first-born. There’s no question that he was the greatest over-draft we ever made.

It’s hard to explain the distance between your head and your heart. Your head can be so logical, so rational, so calculated, and sometimes so detached from your heart and emotions. While Aberdeen had been slowly deteriorating over the last couple of years, we knew the time would soon be approaching when we would have to make a difficult decision. But we thought that, even though we would be sad from his passing, it would be made easier by the fact that he was old, losing weight, and suffering from a neurological disorder that made walking and standing difficult to impossible.

Our heads told us that this was the right decision, but nothing told our hearts to prepare for being wrecked.

As we stood with Aberdeen in those final moments, a flood of grief washed over us. All I could hear were the words of our oldest daughter Anna, when she said the night before, “Do you know why Aberdeen has lived so long? Because he is happy.” The joy of knowing our precious dog loved us, always wanted to be with us, and was still pressing on to live another day while his little body wasted away was met with the violent and horrific tension of our inner grief as we watched him take his final breath. All I could say with tears streaming down my face was, “I’m sorry Aberdeen. I’m so sorry.”

All I could think about was throwing the tennis ball and watching him bounce like a rabbit as he chased it down. And when he got it, he would always run off with it and never bring it back for another throw.

All I could think about was how I had taught him tricks for treats. I could make my finger and thumb a pretend gun and when I would say, “Bang!” He would fall on his back and play dead.

All I could think about is how he used to wait patiently until we got in bed before he would jump up to join us.

All I could think about was how we used to ask him if he had a girlfriend to which he would comically protest by growling and barking each time we asked.

All I could think about was the way he would get out of the bathtub soaking wet and run 100 miles per hour down the hallways, jumping on and off of furniture, and running with his face flat to the floor to dry off.

All I could think about was his howling and moaning in pain when one of the children were crying. His jumping on the couch to sit between our legs. His carrying of his food bowl to us when it was empty. His sniffing us and then licking us when he approved. His nicknames- Pookerboo, Dr. John Pooker, Aberdeener, and always following them up with, “You’re a good boy.” His insistence of always being in every room that we were in, even if we were not paying attention to him, just to be with us. And his belief that we were his pack and I was the leader, but he was higher in the order than Jenny and the kids.

He was something else.

But even more, it was what we went through together. He welcomed each of our beautiful children into this world. He watched over them. He protected them. He loved them.

He was with us during our highs and lows. He was with for every event and celebration. He was with us for every birthday and every party. He was with us opening gifts on Christmas morning. He was with us when the grandparents would visit. He was with us when our friends would come to our house. He was with us for every slumber party. He was with us for every Bible study.

He was with us.
He was with us.
He was with us.

He always just wanted to be with us.

And I promise, he will always be.

We hope to see you again one day.

To our oldest with love…

Your Pack

5 thoughts on “He Was Always With Us…

  1. Each one of us has a memory of him. He was a great dog, funny and always wanting a pat on the head to acknowledge he was there beside you. The house does seem like someone is missing when we visit now, but as time passes the heart will heal.. the memories will always be there.

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  2. The loss of a pet dog is one of the hardest things to experience. I experienced it with my parents’ “first-born” when I was 11 years old. I went with my dad to the vet to have her put to sleep. It was awful watching her just slip away. I cried and cried. It still makes me uncomfortable thinking about that memory. Dogs are precious creatures, wonderful gifts from God. I’m so glad you shared some of the memories you made with your “first-born.”

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  3. Hello Brandon! It’s taken me too long to get this to you, but thanks for your tho’ts re “Jesus, not politicians…” Done any hiking this winter? Thanks for writing about your dog. We had a brwn ‘n white Cocker soon after we lost our Beagle! Hope your family’s doin’ well! Bill

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    1. Thanks Bill! And so good to hear from you. I appreciate all the kind words and encouragement on my political posts. They are few and far between! So thank you. No winter hikes! I am starting to get old and cranky with the cold! 😜 I have been doing more pampering the older I get. We are going to Alaska in August. Taking a bush plane from McCarthy and into Wrangell St. Elias NP. We will do seven days in the outback and then picked up by the bush plane. We are super excited about it. Again, great to hear from you Bill.

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  4. Brandon,

    I enjoy all your articles in the Pastor’s Corner, but your story about Aberdeen was especially good. Anyone who has had a companion, esp. a dog, for even the shortest of times understands what you were saying. We’ve been through this more times in our life than we ever thought we could endure. I wrote a tribute to our first yellow lab, Ben, several years ago. Then after watching our second yellow lab, Millie, be put down, we vowed not to put us through the experience again. Three years later we got Bill – the dog, yep another yellow lab.

    Bill was special of the three, and lived the longest. He was a part of everyone’s lives who knew us. When we had to take him for his last ride, friends even came with us and the Vet did it after they closed. It was a special time, but excruciating. I agonized composing a notification for about three days, but finally sent it out with lots of accolades. It basically was a letter from him about the last day and then, as he went under, him going thru lots of events in his life. I’m not going to include the entire letter, which repeatedly talked about him thinking he was in heaven, but I’m going to paste the last portion here.

    Some would argue that this may not be theologically sound, but us dog owners and lovers know differently. Here it is:

    But just then I was starting to wake up from my deep sleep. The long dream of my life was starting to fade. But everything was really different. I wasn’t laying in the Vet’s Room anymore. Dr. Newton was gone, and so was my Mom & Dad and my second Mom, Ann Haas. Everything was very peaceful and in every direction I looked were grassy fields as far as I could see. There were also lots of trees. I got up and my body didn’t hurt like before; I could run and jump like I did when I was a little pup. What a Revelation! Then Holly —————>
    came to greet me. I hadn’t seen her in over a year. Eli, another lab friend from Ohio, came and let me know he had been in this wonderful place for only a few weeks. Then these two labs came to greet me, letting me know they were Ben & Millie and had lived in my house before me. There was Pepper, my Aunt Kathy’s dog, I had first met in Buffalo, and Coco, Pam’s chocolate lab. Lots of other new friends also greeted me. We all played together for a long time, and we didn’t even get tired, or run out of space – or trees!

    Then all of a sudden the birds started singing and all my play friends stopped running and sat down. There was a peaceful quiet and gentle breeze that blew through the air and ruffled our fur. I looked up and saw a bearded man with long flowing hair and a white robe walking toward us. He was wearing sandals on his feet and He glided toward us like he was floating on air. There was a brilliance that radiated from Him almost like He was the sun, but we could look at him without being blinded. As He passed my friends he greeted each with a gentle pat on their head. A couple of my friends near me quietly let me know it was Jesus. I heard that name before.

    Then He came to me, knelt down, and put His hand on my head and rubbed it. I felt a warmth and a flowing of love from Him that I had never felt before. Then He smiled at me and, looking directly at me, said, “Welcome Bill, welcome to Heaven. You’ve been a good boy. Have fun with your friends for a long, long time – forever.” Then He stood up and walked off, continuing to pat my friends on the head as He passed each one. He then disappeared in the distance, slowly fading from my eyes.

    Now I know where I am. I am now in HEAVEN just like I had heard in the ladies’ Bible Study, but all the times in my wonderful life that I felt like I was in heaven, I found there was no comparison to what I am experiencing now.

    I wanted you all to know I am happy and will always remember you as I hope you will also remember me.

    Love and kisses,
    Bill, the dog

    Great job Brandon. Keep up the inspired writing. Yours in Him, Joe Kinderman

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