I knew what was happening the second I was awoken by my phone at 3 a.m. Still, the news on the other end was no less a shock.

“I have some bad news,” my dad said. “We have to put Mango to sleep.”

The information had come just as fast and furiously for my family. My dog had undergone surgery on her left hind knee a few weeks prior. Recovery had been slow but steady until a week ago when she began to have intermittent weakness in both back legs. The vet took x-rays and reassured my dad that there were no issues with Mango’s operation.

But the weakness continued until she lost all power in her hind legs and couldn’t even stand. This time, the vet was acutely concerned. Tests showed a puzzling combination of liver and thyroid problems. Meanwhile, Mango continued to get worse. Then, finally, the answer.

A scan showed that Mango’s spine was riddled with tumours. One in particular was compressing her spinal cord, paralyzing her below the waist. It was a freak coincidence that it had presented itself just after Mango’s surgery. But she would never stand again, much less walk or run. And she had terminal cancer. Still sedated from the scan, the kindest thing for Mango was to act now.

I wish I had been with my family as they had to make this painful decision, as my parents and siblings huddled around Mango and stroked her fur, whispering their thanks for the love that they were privileged to give and receive from her. She went peacefully, they told me.

I never got to say goodbye, and that hurts. But I know it’s much easier for me to process her passing having not seen her for ten months. It is my parents who have to live with the fresh, raw reality of her absence. This morning, they woke up in a house where, instead of the jangle of her collar and the patter of her paws, there is silence. Instead of her faithful presence underfoot, there is emptiness. And instead of her loyal canine companionship, there is a deep, gaping void. Please pray for them.

Like every family member, Mango had a role. She helped ease my dad into semi-retirement by providing friendship, purpose, and regular activity. She was to do the same when my mom retired in a few months. Mango taught us what it meant to care for God’s creation. By loving her, we loved each other more too. Her illness reminds us of our own frailty. Even in death, she has united our family. Of course, in time, we will be fine, and the pain of her passing will slowly dissipate until all that is left are the memories of the seven wonderful years that she walked with us, often quite literally, here on earth.

It took me a few tries to type the following words out, and even seeing them now, I don’t quite believe them: that she was just a dog. My heart desperately wants to be comforted by that fact, which my head already knows. There are many more people, never mind animals, who in their lifetimes receive much less care and die with much more cruelty. Yet she was my family’s dog and that completely clouds my objectivity. My heart is broken, and I can’t stop crying.

How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.

These all look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.

When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.

When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.

When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.

May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord rejoice in his works—
he who looks at the earth, and it trembles,
who touches the mountains, and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 104:24,27-33