Keep Your Promises, Even to Your Dog

May 5, 2020
The author’s dog.

If you lie to your dog, you’ll probably lie to your friends and family.

I’m well aware that during this COVID-19 pandemic people are losing their jobs, losing their homes and losing their lives. So what right do I have to be bent out of shape about the death of my 2 1/2-pound Yorkie, Glendi?

Every right in the world. A dog isn’t a human but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t part of the family and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t terribly painful to lose her.

On April 14, we had to put down our lapdog. Ten and a half years ago she found us in the street. The vet estimated her to be 3 to 4 years old, so she was 13 to 14 when she died. Question for God: Why do dogs die so young and tortoises live around 80 years?

Since her first day with us, Glendi spent her entire existence following my wife from one room to the next. I’m sure Glendi never thought, “What am I doing with my life?” or “Is this all there is?” She never wanted to or needed to be anything more than a friend or companion. On Friday nights, Glendi would wait for her chicken soup and, at Shabbos lunch, she had her own chair at our table. After a few morsels of people food, she would fall asleep and take her long Shabbos nap, sometimes in her chair or sometimes in my wife’s lap.

Our relationship with God is remarkably similar to our relationship with animals.”

The few days before we put her down, Glendi began to get weaker and weaker; when she tried to walk, she would fall over. It was painful to watch. She wasn’t the same happy-go-lucky dog anymore. We knew it was time.

Glendi’s death has left a giant hole in our hearts. We were attached to her and she was attached to us. Last August, she was hospitalized with kidney failure and almost died. It was then that I promised her that when her time came, I would be there holding onto her until her last breath. She trusted and believed me. And as painful as it was, I kept my promise. I held her paw, petted her and cried bitter tears. I believe it was the first time she ever saw me cry. The doctor then gave her two shots. One to make her sleep and the other to stop her heart. With the second shot, her eyes went from bright and clear to dull and cloudy. She died with her eyes wide open looking right at me. It was one of the saddest and most tender moments of my life. I kissed her and walked out of the room. My only regret is that I did not close her eyes before I left her for the last time.

I kept my promise that I would be with her at the end, but I have also realized that, in the past, I’ve lied to all my dogs. I’ve told them that I would take them out for a walk and then made them wait. I told them I would feed them in five minutes only to realize an hour later I hadn’t.

How many times have I told my wife I’ll take out the garbage in one minute and did not? How many times have I promised myself not to eat something bad, but an hour later, I’m chewing on it. I recently promised God I would learn two prayers by heart and have not moved on it at all. Fill in your own blank.

I realized our relationship with God is remarkably similar to our relationship with animals. As we are dependent on God, our pets are dependent on us. Like a baby, if we forget about them too long, the results could be catastrophic. When my little dog barked for dinner, it was her prayer to me that I would hear her need. When I pray to God, it’s my prayer that he will hear me. Just like I hope God doesn’t make me wait too long, my dogs all hoped the same from me. Goodbye, sweet Glendi. We love you.

Mark Schiff is a comedian, actor and writer.

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