Seven Things I Learned Losing Oliver



  1. It’s not silly to ask for prayers for your pet. No, he’s not a child and he’s not a child dying of starvation, dehydration, lack of medicine or from the ravages of war. But that doesn’t make him less deserving of prayer. And truly kind, truly Christian souls will recognize that, will not accuse you of assigning the title of “child” to your pet and will kindly offer their prayers. As my dear friend Katherine said, “If Saint Francis can sing to the moon and Saint Anthony can preach to fish, I don’t know why anyone can’t pray for a cat.”
  2. Even when you know in your heart you’ve made the best decision, the compassionate decision and as my grandmother said, “the merciful” one for your pet, it still hurts unbelievably to have to make that decision. It feels like no matter what decision you make it is the wrong one. And no matter what it will leave you wishing you’d had any other option. (Because the other options they gave you, they told you would do nothing but isolate him from you until he did die.)
  3. There will always be debate about what happens to our pets after they die amongst Christians of good faith. I think of Pope Francis telling the little boy whose dog died, “Paradise is open to all God’s of creatures.” And it makes me think, “why wouldn’t it be?” The Director of Faith Formation at our parish loaned me a book entitled, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, in which a little boy’s cat dies (the same story that played out in our house this week). The little boy’s father tells the little boy we don’t know a lot about heaven because we haven’t been there. I echoed that to my boys. And I told them that while I wasn’t sure, I hope it was a lot like this when I (hopefully) get there (eventually).

  4. Telling your kids that you had to put their beloved pet to sleep is the absolute worst. It’s like reliving the moment 1000 times in a second and their grief is like your own magnified by infinity. When your seven-year-old tells you, through tears, that his heart is broken and will never be fixed again, it breaks you like you’ve never been broken before.
  5. Grief is a very strange thing. It comes on strong as if it will never let up. Then seems to subside quickly only to creep in at inopportune times. It makes one boy withdrawn and another louder and sillier than before. It strikes when I pull up into my parking space expecting to see him sitting in the window…and he’s not there. I am fine talking to a co-worker about what happened but cannot put up the leg rest on my seat because he used to jump up there and snuggle but won’t anymore. Ever again.
  6. I pick up his ashes today. I have no idea what new pandora’s box of emotions this will open up.
  7. Oliver is special. I say that in the present tense for a reason. He reminds me still that pets are great reminders for all of us of the great love God has for us. The kind of love that truly comes without conditions. The love that forgives and bears all wrongs and therefore shows great mercy. I don’t think a day will go by when I do not miss Oliver, like I still miss my childhood dogs Winston and Misty and the dog I lost five years ago, Gilligan. I always thought Gilligan and Oliver would have been great pals. I am sure that he will continue to teach me about God’s love the rest of my life. And for that reason while my heart is broken, it is still full.

RIP sweet boy. I hope we made your lives even a small fraction as wonderful as you made ours. We love you. We miss you. We thank God we got to be your humans.

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