God set the date for when his son would die. We set the date for when our dog would die.


We Put Our Dog Down and Saw God

Scott Dill

10 mins

God set the date for when his son would die. We set the date for when our dog would die.

I know, not the comparison you’d expect to hear regarding Jesus’ death…I’ll explain. My family has experienced the pain of losing a person, as most people in the world also have undergone. And the grief and lessons learned from it, although highly challenging, were expected.

But when our faithful little dog, Socks, passed away, we encountered a very different wave of emotions - plus a few lessons from God that we hadn’t learned in dealing with death.

And yes, it started with my pet.

We Put Our Dog Down and Saw God

For context, my wife and I have had several dogs throughout our lives, both when we were kids and in our 35 years of marriage. So we and all pet owners know that animals eventually die of old age, are killed tragically, or, in our case, a decision must be made to put them down. These eventualities are painful and can take a toll on a family.

Like these situations typically go with pets, we noticed little things as the end drew near - an occasional accident in the house, weight loss, panic attacks, and finally, wandering around the house and then stopping to stare in a corner.

The final diagnosis was a brain tumor. With this in mind, we knew a hard decision had to be made. That’s when I felt God started to show me some truths.

And as I share these learnings, please let me be clear. As much as we loved Socks, he was a dog. Not a human. Not made in God’s image like you and me. He meant a lot to us, but in the pecking order of creation, he was far below you and me:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27).

But even given that truth in Genesis, which accounts God’s creation of the world, Socks was still a creation of God. And I believe we honor God when we care for his creation (this includes a shih-tzu with a strong underbite).

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11).

This is the second time my wife and I have had to decide to euthanize a dog. And we learned from our first experience that prolonging the inevitable wasn’t the loving thing to do.

It would have been easy to ignore or numb the hardship of all this. To just ‘pull the plug’ and move on and drown my sorrows in many different vices. But by letting myself feel the weight of the moment - I saw God in a new way. Three, to be exact:

The power He possesses. The cost He paid for our rescue. And most importantly, the depth of His love for us.

The Power

I feel God uses every single experience we have to point back to him, including the decision to put a pet down. So, given the diagnosis and after discussing it with our grown daughters, we checked our calendars for a night we were free and could all be there.

We called the vet and booked a time. We knew when he would die.

The knowing hung heavy in our house for several days since we booked about a week out. My wife deeply felt the pain of it, commenting on the burden she felt just knowing and trying to continue with our routines. I believe our girls were in a similar space.

We Put Our Dog Down and Saw God

And in that space, I was reminded of God knowing exactly when and where his son would die outside the walls of Jerusalem about 2,000 years ago.

As a human, full of faults, it’s impossible to grasp the mind of God and to feel exactly what he felt, knowing he was sending his son, Jesus, to the cross. But by knowing of our dog’s impending death, I got a clearer picture of God’s sacrifice, which was more than just the event.

It was knowingly and willingly choosing the when and where of the event, which was an extremely heavy burden. And the ability to make that decision - the power to change the life of another being - was a bewildering feeling.

I realize the comparison eventually breaks down since I’m drawing parallels with the Savior of the world and Socks. But God allowed me to learn something through choosing the when and where for our dog. The power to choose life and death is a weighty choice indeed.

And by letting myself feel this weight even in the smallest of contexts, I now see a glimpse into God’s choice with Jesus and appreciate it more deeply. I imagine that the God of the universe, through tremendous emotion and heaviness, made a powerful move to transform the history of the world.

And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Luke 9:22).

The Cost

We were quiet in the car as my wife drove us to the vet that night. Socks sat in my lap, and our girls were in the back seat. We were already grieving what was about to happen. We had a Christian radio station playing as we pulled into the parking lot.

The song ‘The Goodness of God’ came on, and we all just sat in the car. Some of us listened, some of us sang. But we felt God was reminding us that he was there. And He wasn’t going anywhere.

We Put Our Dog Down and Saw God

I don’t believe God was taking the death of our dog lightly. It wasn’t something to be dismissed as trivial. It represented the brokenness of this world. The things that He never designed to be (like death), but due to our sin, are.

Love is free to give. Love is also free to receive. Jesus was trying to get his disciples to understand this when he first sent them out to serve their communities:

“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay”. (Matthew 10:8)

Jesus said everything you have, I gave you free of charge. So go out there and love others by caring for and healing them…free of charge.

But as we do this, we also know that love in this broken world comes at a cost. While giving out love is rewarding, it also sets you up for hurt: You invest in a relationship only to have it taken away. You make difficult sacrifices in your marriage to build up your spouse. You give your heart to someone just to have them pass away (like with my dog).

…In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33)

I say it again…love costs us.

Through the pain of this loss, God has lovingly reminded me of the incalculable weight of his rescue. Our pain for our dog more deeply tied us to our Lord and Savior - he who suffered and died for me, for us, who struggled to carry his cross up that hill, who allowed himself to be nailed to it. And to His Heavenly Father, who allowed it to happen to his only son.

I’ve got a clearer picture of that cost. The cost of love. And it’s worth every penny. By choosing to step in and love Socks deeply, we were subsequently hurt when he died. We wouldn’t have felt the hurt if we didn’t love him. But it was more than worth it to love him.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

And as well said by Tennyson in a poem titled In Memoriam A.H.H., “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

The Depth

Our journey with Socks at the end of his life has shown me God’s love with powerful clarity. That’s the biggy for me - God’s love. The Bible clearly says, “God is love.”

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8).

Socks was a black and white Shih-tzu. We rescued him about nine years ago. His paperwork was wonky, but we know he was between 15-17 years old at the end. So he lived a good life.

Although his name was Socks, his nickname was “Taco” because he smelled like a taco chip - and not in a good way. As mentioned earlier, he had an underbite, so when he had bottom teeth, they stuck out (most of his teeth had either fallen out or were pulled out in the last couple of years). His tongue stuck out as well. Yeah, he was a real looker. But he was a sweet dog who loved his family and was easy to care for until the last few months of his life.

As I think back to our years with Socks, most times, I repaid his love with kindness. But the painful truth is that sometimes I yelled as I almost tripped over him. Or I would begrudgingly take him on a walk in the rain. Or I would be frustrated by the inconvenience of feeding, watering, and caring for a pet. My love was imperfect. As much as I hate to say it, my love for Socks was at times shown to be conditional.

I’ve talked to God about it. I’ve repented. And I’ve honestly felt Him say, “I love you. You’re forgiven”. I’m not saying Socks was perfect, but I was reminded that in his own way (perhaps by cuddling up next to me or licking me), he said the very same thing to me over the nine-plus years we cared for him, “I love you. You’re forgiven.” God used our little dog to remind me of the most important truth of all time: God loves and forgives me.

We Put Our Dog Down and Saw God

The Reflection

I believe God designed Socks as he designed all of his creation to point back to his character of forgiveness and love. Because if we’re being honest, we’re not the best looking either (like Socks) when standing before a perfect God. And yet, He still loves us deeply and without fault.

God is the giver of good and perfect gifts to show us these attributes of himself. Like Socks, He gives second, third, or five hundred and twenty-fifth chances. He’s that good. And He used a black-and-white, smelly, and incredibly loving shih-tzu to remind me of that truth.

Thank you for Socks, God. And thank you for using him, his life, and his death to bring me closer to You.

Disclaimer: This article is 100% human-generated.

Scott Dill
Meet the author

Scott Dill

I'm married to a great woman. We have two fantastic daughters. Occasionally, you can find me strumming a guitar or banging a drum. Otherwise, I'm hanging with my family and eating popcorn. God continues to be good to me.

Popular Topics