About a month ago, I (gently) chastised parents and other family members who “help” their loved ones to death in Literally Loving Someone to Death.
I still stand by my words today.
But, as is the case with many messages I give, I found myself tested in this very area with my beloved chihuahua, Isabella.
Now I’m by no means saying dogs are as important as people. Unless you have dogs too. Then you know I absolutely believe they are. In fact, their unconditional love makes it almost easier to return love without walls. But I digress….
Izzie is a 4 lb dog so you can imagine she has a small and delicate digestive system. However, she loves people food. And it is HARD to deny those sweet puppy eyes when she wants a bite of my food.
Yes, people tell me it’s not good for her.
Yes, I’ve read pages upon pages on the best dietary guides for dogs.
Yes, all the puppy doctors have told me I’m causing more problems by giving her table scraps. I even had one vet show me the x-rays of her blocked intestines because she was unable to process the higher-fat content of people food.
I even promised to stop feeding her from the table. The doc was pleased to hear that because she’d told many owners the same thing only to be met with responses of “Oh, I can’t do that. She likes it too much.” Or “I could never deny my precious baby.”
Only over time, I’d forget. Or she’d seem to be handling it better.
Until she wasn’t.
Last week, she became very ill. I knew it was from the food. Over time we’d slipped her more and more until she was rarely eating her formulated dog food at all. I’d temporarily forgotten the consequences of a diet comprised of only people food.
But I hadn’t forgotten the x-ray. I knew I had to help her and that meant cutting her off completely.
Let me tell you, this is worse than a grounded teenager. At least with them you know they are suffering the consequences of their poorly chosen actions.
With Izzie, it was MY actions. I had fed her. I had taught her to equate love and affection with edible treats. And now, I had to deny her everything.
When her tear-filled eyes watch me eat, it breaks my heart.
When I lock her in the room during mealtimes to spare us both the pain and she seems confused as to why she’s being put away, it breaks my heart.
When I catch her looking at me at night wondering why things have changed, it devastates me.
Last night, I’d just about had all I could stand.
“She thinks I hate her.” I choked back the sobs threatening to come.
Maybe the bigger issue is my attachment to my dog but stay with me. The lesson is powerful, no matter how the Lord chose to deliver it.
“I’m going to just give her a little something.” It wasn’t going to help her but it would keep her from being mad at me and it would make me feel better. I’m telling you, withholding food from her had been harder than withholding it from myself.
My husband started to encourage me to be strong and do the right thing but he needn’t have. Because right then the Lord reminded me of that blog post.
And all at once I understood.
It’s HARD to do the right thing for those you love when it makes you feel so bad.
Even though I knew I was only making it worse, I was showing love the only way I knew how.
Like the moms and grandpas of addicts.
I get it. I really do.
And I DIDN’T feed her anything.
Yes, she’s still a little mad at me.
Yes, she still cries when I put her up at mealtimes.
But I know I’m doing what’s best for her.
She’s already doing a little better and ultimately, that’s all want. For her to be happy and healthy and be around for a long, long time.
I heard a preacher say once that in today’s society the prodigal son would never have returned home. There’d have too many old church ladies around trying to feed him and fix everything that he’d have never hit bottom or returned home for redemption.
That’s probably pretty accurate.
Sometimes we have to just let go and let God- with other people’s lives too.