Saturday, August 20, 2011
Of sparrows and lilies
Yesterday was a sad day at our household, as my father and I said goodbye to a beloved family member, our Boston Terrier, Queenie. For the better part of two months, Queenie had been battling a series of ailments: cancer, liver problems and tick fever. The latter stemmed from a compromised immune system.
During this time, we hoped against hope. Three times, Queenie came close to death and three times, the veterinarians helped pull her through (with a huge assist from St. Francis of Assisi). However, this last setback left her body too weak to fight anymore. We could not prevent the inevitable. Her time had come.
My father and I took her back to where we got her. The veterinarian had told us that we needed to euthanize her and recommended that we take her to the animal shelter, where four years ago, we had rescued her. Queenie had come into the shelter as a neglected dog. All she wanted was for someone to love her. I suppose that this is what we all want. When we brought her home, my dad and I gradually introduced her to her rather rambunctious new siblings (most of them dachshunds and one husky-shepherd mix). Queenie pretty much asserted herself as the alpha dog of the pack.
As it turned out, Queenie proved herself to be a brave little gal. She was the first one to alert us if something was amiss. No one would come to the fence without Queenie knowing about it. Her alerts would get the rest of the pack going. The little Boston Terrier turned into a terror one Saturday when a pit bull belonging to the backyard neighboor decided that it wanted to come into our property by way of a hole he had dug beneath our fence. Queenie decided that she would take down the "enemy" and met him at the pass. A bad fight ensued and Queenie was rather banged up and bloodied. She lost a few teeth in the skirmish; however, the pit bull took a bigger hit. We suspected that she left some of her teeth inside the pitbull. We never saw the pitbull again. I did not witness the battle, as I was sick with a bad migraine. My father brought Queenie into the house and she jumped on my bed, bloody, but strangely happy. I groggily cleaned up her wounds and did what I could while I called the vet. We brought Queenie in for emergency surgery to treat her cuts and take care of her dental. A few days later, she came back good as new, minus some teeth.
The battle did not take away her fighting spirit, as she continued to patrol the yard like a sheriff. At night, she would come into the house and either jump on my bed or get into her own. She also served as my dad's constant companion while he was doing yard work. While the pack would follow him around, she was the one who always stayed close to him.
Queenie also had a soft side. Both she and one of my dachshunds, Zoie, would come to me whenever I had a migraine. Queenie would lay her head on mine and then snuggle up with me until I fell asleep. Even her slobbering on my face was comforting.
With everything we had been through, there wasn't anything in the world that I would not do for Queenie. But, as my father told me with some reluctance, maybe Queenie was trying to tell us that it was time for her to cross the Rainbow Bridge. While I was at Mass yesterday, I could not help but think about Jesus' parable about the birds and the lilies of the field. The Father provides food and shelter for the birds of the air. He dressed the lilies of the field in an array more splended than Solomon's finery. Even when a sparrow falls to the ground, that does not escape His knowledge.
But, in Queenie's case, the Lord took her because her time had come. It was hard to hand her over to the Animal Shelter technicians; however, she had been suffering too much. My friend Chris posted something on my facebook page that really gave me some comfort. He wrote that in the New Jerusalem, "our perfect happiness is waiting for us, with the Lord, a place I imagine filled with music and canines."
I know that animals do not have a soul. My priest friend keeps reminding me of that; however, St. Francis of Assisi considered the animals his brothers. Furthermore, the first witnesses to the birth of Christ (outside of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph) were the animals at the stable. Queenie was one of God's creatures. The Lord in his great love let me have her for a time. As I was driving home, all I could think of were sparrows and lilies. My own "lily" had left me, but, I have a feeling that she is now in a place where she is whole and happy, chasing the sparrows and smelling the lilies and probably getting petted by St. Francis.