I lost a good friend the other day.
He was our 13-year-old beagle, Jughead. My husband, Chuck, and I got him after we moved into our new house years ago. We already had adopted a 7 1/2-year-old basset hound named, Archie, from the humane society, but that dog seemed to take to our older son, Mike.
Our younger son, Zach, felt left out.
"I want a little puppy," he said.
To make a long story a little shorter, we ended up getting a puppy from a pet store. Chuck thought we should name it Jughead - just like the best friend in the Archie comic books.
Our Archie and Jughead weren't best friends. Archie didn't like the antics of a puppy who would bite him in the tailend and then run away.
Archie didn't want to play. He wanted to nap.
So Jughead learned to stay away from his grumpy counterpart.
But throughout the years, I enjoyed Jughead's merry temperament. He also had a great set of ears. He could be sound asleep in the other room and still hear the refrigerator door open.
I know I fed him too many treats. You have to give the dog credit. He really had me trained. He knew if he went outside and barked, I'd be at the back door with a treat, trying to get him into the house so he wouldn't disturb the neighbors.
And, by golly, it had better be a good treat!
We would add other dogs to our family. Abby joined us a year after Jughead and we adopted Buzz about a year after Archie died.
As Jughead aged, I noticed that he got a little more stiff. Months ago, we got him medicine for his joints. That's when the vet said that Jughead's big belly could be the result of a heart that didn't work so efficiently.
After all, he was 13 years old.
Last week, Jughead had trouble getting up off the kitchen floor. I called the vet for an appointment. I thought that maybe we could drain some of that fluid. Just in case that wouldn't work, I spent special time with Jughead the night before. I brushed and petted him and told him I loved him. I fed him pieces of hot dog and pizza rolls. I figured if that was going to be his last supper it would be a good one.
The next day, an X-ray detected a large cancerous mass and a bad prognosis.
My husband and youngest son were at work, but our oldest son and his wife went to the vet with me. My oldest son sat in the lobby and thought I should, too, but I just couldn't leave Jughead. Not after all these years.
My daughter-in-law stayed by my side, kind of like Naomi and Ruth in the Bible. She rubbed my back while I held Jughead and sobbed.
People have argued for years about whether dogs go to heaven. I don't know how that all works. I know what I pray at night.
What I also know is that our God is the God of all comfort. He comforts the downcast and brokenhearted. He loves us and his only son lived on this earth as a human and understands what we as flesh-and-blood people deal with on a daily basis.
So I cling to him and ask him to help me deal with all of this. I honestly didn't think it would hit me so hard, but I know God will sustain me.
"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Psalm 54:4.