Tuesday, October 17, 2023

In Loving Memory of Tippy


This summer, we took in another dog. His name was Tippy; we had acquired him from an Amish family whose son has been helping me mow the grass and do yardwork this summer. 

I noticed Tippy every time I would drop the boy off at his home. Tippy was obviously older, and tried to keep up with the two other Australian Shepherds that he lived with. He was a mutt, probably some kind of mixture between a fox terrier and a beagle, but we weren't absolutely sure. 

Tippy was toughened by years of living outdoors and in the barn through summer and winter; he would approach my van barking, and then sidle up to me and rest his head against my leg after I opened the van door so that I could pet him. He was hungry for attention. 

One day, I asked my young Amish friend a question about Tippy, and he replied, "Do ya want him?" Apparently, they didn't have much use for Tippy anymore as a farm dog and were concerned that he couldn't make it through another winter as he had had a difficult time making it through the previous one. I probably should have asked more questions, but I didn't. 

Eventually, a few weeks later, we took Tippy in. My husband brought him home, a look of bemusement on his face as he rolled into our driveway with Tippy on his lap. Tippy was anxious in the car and the only logical thing that the dog could think to do was to join my husband on the driver's seat! 

He was anxious from the beginning, a bit of a distracted dog, who never quite knew what to do with himself. At first, he wanted to roam our land, chasing anything that moved, including our pet rabbits, until we taught him that all of this frantic activity was out of bounds.

He had never lived inside of someone's home before, and much to his delight, he found our couch a welcome respite for his old bones and arthritic joints. He also liked to sleep under my daughter Debbie's dollhouse; it seemed he felt safe beneath the table that supported it. 

At first, Tippy did well living in our home, but as the days and weeks went by, we began to experience problems. Tippy would grow extremely anxious when we would leave the home to run errands and began chewing our furniture. It eventually turned into frenzied behavior, and I realized that it was becoming a serious problem when he tore apart our couch one day while we were gone. His behavior increasingly became worse and worse, intensifying, but only when we left the home. He could not handle being left in any enclosed space if people were not around and we realized that he had severe anxiety issues from his upbringing.

Other problems arose. He was infested with fleas, a fact which we realized once our other dog started scratching and rolling on the carpet. He had severe parasites which we had to deal with with a de wormer. He began going to the bathroom all over the floor and eventually we realized that he had kidney issues. His stomach became swollen and distended. Tippy was half-crippled and was missing most of his teeth, but he still managed to climb on tables, destroy furniture, bay for hours like a beagle who had cornered a coon, and finally learned how to turn our stove on when we were not home. This was the last straw. 

One day, I came home and heard a clicking noise. Going into the kitchen, I realized that the stove was on, an open live flame that could have caught our home on fire. I knew that something must be done. 

Nothing had worked. We had even tried a kennel, but Tippy went wild in it, bending the bars with his teeth and bleeding from his mouth. When we would return home, he was hyperventilating, and I was concerned that he would end his own life in a terrible way. I knew that he was old and worn and that he had led a hard life. There was nothing left to be done for him here; we had exhausted every viable option.

And yet, now I was closer to Tippy. I felt sorry for this poor, pathetic animal who had led such a difficult life. And yet, because  his health and behavioral problems intensified, I finally made the difficult decision to have him put down. 

We buried Tippy along a quiet path near the back corner of our property, his old, scarred, worn body laid to rest beneath a beautiful oak tree covering. I cried for him and laid flowers on his grave, feeling that I had let him down. 

We buried him on the first day of fall, a beautiful day, and I thought of how he would have loved to be outside enjoying the loveliness of it. But he was gone. 

Early in the morning, I would walk down the path alone and talk to him, telling him how sorry I was that I could not help him. I felt so much pain in my soul because I could not see him through his problems. 

During this time, I talked to the Lord, struggling with this situation and wanting to know if Tippy's little life would be redeemed in some way. 

Some may disagree, but I believe that the Bible teaches that no life is wasted, and that the Lord will renew even His creation, the creation that groans because of the weight of sin and death. 

I asked the Lord to reveal to me if Tippy's life would be redeemed, that his years of suffering would not be wasted, and my heart was torn in the wondering anguish. 

And there was silence. Silence on that beautiful fall morning that I talked to the Lord about it. I thought that maybe He would show me a deer or another living thing to validate His promise. I looked around me, but only silence and the murmuring of the tree's branches in the gentle breeze. Perhaps it was over for Tippy, I thought, for every living thing that dies because of sin and death in this often cruel world. 

There was beauty all around me as I walked the path back toward our house in sadness, but I could not connect with it that day. There was an emptiness, a loss, a void, that only Jesus could fill in His time and way. Some things are like that. 

Time does not heal every wound in this life; there are scars that we carry that only heaven will erase, and they will be erased because of the scars on Jesus' hands and feet. My hurt would not be healed that day. 

The next day I was driving home with my children during a downpour. In the Midwest, the skies are vast and when it rains, it often comes down in torrents. 

The rain began clearing in some parts of the sky, and all of a sudden, as though stretched over our home in the great, vast distance, a massive rainbow appeared in the sky. 

I knew that the Lord was speaking to me about Tippy. I knew that He was speaking to my broken heart the truth that all life would be redeemed. He sent the rainbow into my vision at that time to remind me of His promise. It was not an accident or a coincidence. 

Tippy died on the first day of fall, the season of dying that is beautiful at first, but ends cold and bare and lonely, as everything withers around us. 

But I am waiting for spring again when I may place flowers on Tippy's grave and know that the Lord will fulfill His promise--that my sin and the sin of the whole world will never stop God from redeeming His creation. It will be redeemed on the day that He makes all things new.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes in the mid-90's television series, Christy, in which a little boy from the Ozarks tearfully asks the older and wiser Quaker lady "Miss Alice" whether or not he will see his beloved dog again after the animal dies. She, wanting to be theologically accurate, reminds him of the verse in the book of Ecclesiastes where it states that the souls of people go heavenward, but the bodies of animals go into the ground. But then she adds, thoughtfully, that who knows what the Lord has in store for the little boy's dog, as 

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,

Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

I Corinthians 2:9

The little boy then responds with hope in his voice, (paraphrasing) "that sure seems like I will see my dog again." 

Nothing with God is wasted. And He knows the pain in our hearts that only heaven and the fulfillment of His promise that every tear will be erased. 

He is the Healer of all things and the Redeemer of all things.

Tippy's little life will not be wasted. I trust Him for that. 

In loving memory of Tippy. 
Born: ?
Died: September 23, 2023

1 comment:

  1. What a sweet dog! Thanks for sharing your story!