Compassion for a dog and an opossum
This post might be a little sad for some, but trust me, it ends on a higher note. Maybe the way we view our beloved pets’ and other animals’ lives needs to be challenged a bit….
One year ago we had to put our border collie mix Crystal down. She was only 11 years old, but had been dealing with a bad blockage in her sinus cavity that led to her nose continually dripping with blood. This went on for several months, with vet visits and X-rays and medicine, but aside from spending $2,000, there was nothing else that we could do. To watch her suffering from lack of sleep was extremely painful for all of us, but especially me since I was her primary caregiver. She couldn’t breathe properly through her nose anymore, which made napping and sleeping very difficult. The only time she could rest was when her lip would get a little dry and get stuck on her tooth, keeping her mouth open while she was crashed on the floor. But when she woke up, there would be this small pool of blood by her nose. At night, her new struggle with snoring was too much for her and me, and she’d just stay awake most of the night, dripping, and miserable.
She and I would go for walks daily for years! Even though her last year of being with us she was always exhausted, she would find the energy to join me in 3 miles or more of outside exercise without complaint. You wouldn’t know anything was even wrong! But when we got home and it was time to rest, she couldn’t. If I was sitting at my desk, she would stand next to me, and her eyes would slowly close. She would start swaying left, right, forward, and BAM. She would fall flat on her face which startled her enough to wake her back up.
The family decision to put her down was highly emotional for all of us. We were losing a great, kind, always forgiving and fun friend. To this day, each of us regularly brings her name back up with fond memories of her childlike giddiness in the snow, or digging for crabs in the sand on the beach, or her passion for watching our electronics like cell phones, computers and the TV.
But one memory I have with her is a day that I will never, ever forget. This particular day Crystal and I were out walking and we came across an opossum that had been hit by a car. We saw this poor creature stumbling along the edge of the sidewalk, but with no visible wounds. It could barely stand up, but kept trying to get back to the road, where it had come from. It didn’t even hiss at us!
As Crystal and I stood within 2 feet of this animal, I began to cry. For 30 minutes we had watched her struggle with breathing, a little blood dripping from its nose, and apparent pain in every movement. But she was determined to go back into the street. I began to talk to this opossum through my tears, telling it, “No, no, don’t go into the street”, but she did. She fell over the edge of the curb onto her side, but got back up, walking along the edge. I knew the end for this creature was near, whether it would be hit by a car again or die on its own because her breathing was very labored now.
The pity that I felt for this animal was overwhelming! Why did I feel so badly about an ugly, despised opossum dying? We see them all the time in the road or on the side from being hit by a car. So why was I so struck by this one? It was obviously in extreme pain, and that certainly hit a nerve with me, plus I didn’t want to see it get hit again.
Then it was as though the Lord was speaking to me. I realized that I was more concerned about an opossum being in pain and dying than I was about people I knew that don’t know Jesus, and will die a spiritual, eternal death. This revelation floored me! I stood there on the sidewalk with Crystal, wiping the tears from my eyes, and made a vow to the Lord right then and there that this opossum’s death would not be in vain. I would never forget what I witnessed and how I felt about this wounded and dying animal, and would translate that emotion into people.
Ask God to burden your heart for people that are lost. Be specific! If a name comes to your mind, pray regularly for that person. Be a good friend for them. Make a difference in their life today and tomorrow for eternity.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'”
“Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest….I sent you to reap…”
John 4:35, 38
“And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'”
Food for thought: Are you burdened for the hearts of others that don’t know Jesus?
Fun facts: Opossum babies are called “joeys”. The Virginia opossum has more teeth than any other North American mammal: 50, to be exact. And, this creature is the only marsupial that lives in the wild in the US. Don’t worry – they typically don’t carry rabies either.
(As I wrote this, the similarities between Crystal’s end and the opossum’s end hit me.)
Photo by: Kari Wiseman – Crystal