When I left you, we were wrapping up the tragic end to my sweet friend, Duchess.
The next day—Tuesday— I cried on and off, but mostly on, for most of the day. My girls had play rehearsal at 9:00 AM and I spent those two hours reclining in the front of the car drifting in and out wakefulness and crying; I really can’t call it “sleep”, but it was more a semi-conscious state. I didn’t want anyone to see me, and truthfully, I didn’t want to see anyone else. My perceived lack of pet-parental responsibility had me tightly by the collar, and wasn’t about to let go. By day’s end Wednesday, I was able to discern and define the difference between guilt and feeling responsible for her death. Tuesday? Every emotion was just raw.
As with a lot of tragedy, we question God’s justice in taking away something we held so close and begin to ask “Why?”
“Why her and not LadyBear? Why did that kid leave the gate open if he was afraid of dogs? Why did he even cut through if he was afraid of dogs?” I don’t think I ever asked, “why me?” but the temptation was there. But a young man, wise beyond his years, fighting terminal cancer said he could never ask God ‘Why me?’ because to do so would be the same as asking ‘Why not someone else?’ Since he would never have wished his situation on anyone else, he reasoned God had indeed given it to the right person. Now, I am fully aware that ‘Losing a Mixed Breed Mutt’ is not even close to ‘Young Man Dying of Pancreatic/Liver Cancer’ on the Grand Scale of Tragic Things, but I think you get my point. I couldn’t ask, wouldn’t dare ask: ‘Why not someone else?’
After I got through the anger stage of my grief and realized that God did indeed take the right dog away, as hard and painful as that was to understand, I knew there was a lesson in this, waiting to be revealed. I was just hoping He wouldn’t hit me with a spiritual 2×4 in order to get me to understand what the lesson was.
The lesson was: favoritism. There were no drum rolls, no grand Tah-dah! just a lonely LadyBear standing, staring out the window waiting for her friend to come home. She knew Duchess had gotten out that night, and she would always cry, whine and whimper until Duchess was safe at home again. She stood looking out the kitchen window for days—hours on end— and my heart broke for her loss. I rattled Duchess’ collar by mistake and LadyBear’s head jerked to attention and she darted over to the window, with such an expectant, hopeful look in her eyes. ‘My friend has come back to me!’ they seemed to say, but soon changed to the look we had seen so often since Duchess died. It was a day or two after this when I realized how much favoritism I had for Duchess over LadyBear and it reminded me of a story of a father who played favorites too.
There was a father, Isaac, who had a son, Jacob, who needed a wife. Rather than choosing a bride from the un-Godly and unfaithful who lived nearby, Isaac sent his son on a trip, some 500+ miles away to choose a bride from his own family. Jacob is smitten with Rachel at first site, and worked a long, hard seven years to earn the privilege of calling her his wife. Turns out his uncle tricked him and sent her older, doomed-to-be-single-forever-unless-some-sap-comes-along sister, Leah, down the aisle instead. He wakes up the next morning, realizes he’s been duped and demands to have the bride he worked for. Uncle says sure, you can have her, but here’s the deal, you have to stay another seven years for Rachel. But the good news is, you can be married next month, after a proper “honeymoon” time with Leah. Jacob agrees.
In time, the family started to grow. Leah (and her servant girl who acted as a sort of ancient days ‘surrogate’) started popping out babies—boys in fact, heirs—in a pretty regular stream. Rachel could not produce even one. She sends one of her servant girls in, as her ‘surrogate’ and she produced a couple of boys as well. Rachel, though, was still barren, until one day God shows some mercy and she has one child, Joseph.
Joseph was his Daddy’s favorite and all of his eleven brothers knew it. Jacob wasn’t too shy about letting people know, either, I’m sure. The brothers hated Joseph because his presence alone was enough to remove their father’s favor from them, not to mention the fact he has dreams that imply he would one day rule over his older brothers. Joseph was never sent to work the fields, the flocks or do most hard labor. He was kept home and sat at his father’s side studying, learning, reading, being favored.
The older eleven conspire to kill the “little brat”, but one of them has pity and says, don’t kill him, just sell him to slave traders instead. That way if he dies, it’s not really our fault, and his blood won’t be on our heads. So Joseph is sold and carted off to Egypt, he was about 15. He never returned to the land of his fathers.
The boys take Joseph’s coat, drag it through the mud, tear it up and pour the blood of some un-expecting little critter all over it and bring it back to Dad. They make up a story about Joseph being attacked and killed by wolves, and this is all that’s left of him: his tattered coat.
Jacob’s heart explodes, or rather implodes – or both if it’s possible— with grief. His only child from the one wife he really wanted, was now gone. His FAVORITE was nothing more than memories and a pile of bloody rags.
This was the part of the story that revealed to me my own favoritism. The correlation is a bit loose, but the point was incredibly clear. I hope Jacob learned to appreciate the eleven boys he still had, the love they had for their father and their need to be loved by their father. They had been trying to earn it for years, and all they got for their trouble and devotion was to be pushed away. I would like to think he found comfort in the arms of Leah as well as Rachel. But I don’t think so.
I think LadyBear knew I loved Duchess more than her, but she loved me and kept trying to get me to love her back, but the level of reciprocation was never equal. She could never understand why she wasn’t my favorite, and I could try to find excuses to justify it, but truth be told, I had no reason to favor one over the other, other than to say that I did. Duchess was a spoiled brat of a dog, and that’s our fault. I knew that, and I still didn’t care. We didn’t discipline her and then retrain her properly.
Was Joseph a spoiled brat, or was it all in the brothers’ jealous imagination? We may never know. Did Jacob learn to love his other boys? Did the boys ever get past their own guilt over the pain they brought to their father? I’d say with some certainty a loud NO to both of those, based on how the story ends some 15-20 years later.
Joseph endures a lot, but eventually is given rank of something like Prime Minister in Egypt. He is Pharaoh’s right-hand man. His homeland is suffering severe drought, and eleven of his brothers come to buy food from Egypt; there is a younger brother, a 12th, whom Joseph doesn’t know of until their second trip to back to buy food. Joseph then sets-up the youngest, Benjamin, to make it look like he was a thief, and demands he be thrown in prison. At this point the other eleven begin to plead to trade places with their youngest brother. Joseph asks why they are so passionate to take their younger brother’s place, since he was their father’s favorite, after all. They tell the Prime Minister (who is really their long ago sold-into-slavery brother, remember) that their father once had another favorite son, whom they sold into slavery, but lied about being killed by wolves. They continue explaining that they would rather serve life in prison in their brother’s place than return home without him and cause so much heartache to their father again.
They had witnessed the pain in their father’s eyes every day, and known that they were the cause of it. I don’t think one could ever get over the guilt in that. The fact that Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin cemented him in the Most Favored Son position, and the other eleven accepted that, and rather than despise him, they chose to help protect him, if only for their father’s sake.
LadyBear is our “used box of crayons” dog—she’s pretty colorful, but not too sharp. I’ve seen my pet-parenting flaws, but I’m not eager to find another pup to fix my errant ways or fill the Most Favored Dog seat. I think I’d like to see LadyBear move into it instead. Not because she’s earned it by loving me, but because deserves it…because I love her, and it took losing Duchess to learn it.