BamBam is Gone


Eight years ago I wrote a piece called Fear the Lord in which BamBam, our then 10 year old shih-tzu, had a starring role. At that time I wrote of him and his sister Pebbles, in part:

I imagine one day that a visit to the vet will not end in just another treat for them.

Today was that day. BamBam died peacefully this afternoon at his veterinarian’s office. I am heartbroken. It was really, really hard to take him there but it was time. In the last year or so his quality of life has steadily declined. The dog that was with us since we moved into our current home when our daughter was 8 (now 26, married, moved away, pursuing a Ph.D.) is gone. We treasured his younger and very mischievous personality. I could tell so many stories of his antics! He played an important part in our family life. One of his special contributions was when any of us were sick in bed – BamBam could be counted on to lay quietly with us for days.

As a Catholic, I struggled with his death in several additional ways. First, understanding who or what is being lost? As dear as BamBam has been to us and as attached as we were, he was an animal. One of God’s very special creatures to be sure, but not a person. Like all loving pet owners, we interacted with him many times every day, took good care of him and considered him as a member of our extended family. Although we projected onto him human-like attributes, it is important for me to remember he did not have the rationality nor dignity of a person.

The second issue is euthanasia. For people, this is absolutely out of the question. When I allowed myself to reflect on BamBam like a person (shih-tzu are relatively small dogs, so I often referred to him and his sister as “little people”), the thought of euthanizing him was repugnant. Were he a person, however, he would (justly so) be receiving a good amount of end-of-life medical care at this point. That is not appropriate for a pet. It is appropriate, as best as we are able, to treat him humanely. For animals (unlike people) euthanasia sometimes becomes the most humane, most unselfish option.

The third issue I reflect on is attachment. There are many things I am attached to on my earthly pilgrimage, but none more than God. After God comes family, friends, all other people, then pets and all other things. My attachment to BamBam was alright in its place, yet the world is a little emptier without him. Like people, I have found every dog I ever had to be unique.

My fourth and final issue is “where is he now”? He is simply gone. He had an animal soul, not a rational human soul. He did not face judgment because he ended here and could not actually sin. He was not made in the image and likeness of God, was not beloved as God’s children are, is not an heir to the Father’s kingdom, is not a beneficiary of the Son’s sacrifice – so for BamBam, life ends here. Of the four last things, only death may apply.

My prayers are of thanks for the gift of BamBam to us, but not for his soul. That is gone, along with his place in God’s creation. While he has not “passed on” and is not “resting in peace” – he is not suffering, will be fondly remembered and will be missed. Anything more than that is entrusted to God’s providence. Goodbye my very special, little buddy.

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