One night last week, I came downstairs because I could not sleep. Our dog Doc was snoozing curled by the door. I turned on the light and sat watching her breathe. I waited for some recognition that I was there, perhaps by the twitch of an ear or maybe some shutter across her body. In the old days, when she was young, a cricket could not pass across the sidewalk outside without it sending her whining to go find it. Now she was deaf. Blind in one eye. She slept very deeply these days. Even so, I didn’t know in the morning she would have to be killed. I was about to write, ‘put down’ but she was a rat terrier. She loved killing. She would take down anything that was smaller than her and kill it with a quick, vicious bite to the neck. She’d killed chickens, quail, and other slow birds. Mice aplenty had fallen to her swift jaws. Rat terrier owners have refused to join the AKC. These masters of death will never be bred for looks. They are hunters and death dealers. Doc was never cuddly. She hated being touched and in extreme displays of tolerance, would stand stiffly while you petted her, as if enduring an unpleasant, but necessary, evil. But in the field she was magnificent, sniffing vigorously for whatever might be hiding in the tall grass. When she found something she was relentless in pursuit.
The next morning she had puked everywhere and was staggering and walking in circles disoriented and confused. She was also now completely blind and deaf. My daughter picked her up and put her in her bed. Doc did not know where to go. She stood there sniffing the air, unable to sense anyone’s approach until they touched her.
We cried. My daughter said goodbye and tearfully went to school knowing she would never see her again.
Coincidentally, I was leaving for the muzzleloader deer hunt with my extended family. I went to the store and bought a box of .22 long rifles. I took Docs favorite blanket and put it in her carry cage and loaded her in the back of the truck.
It was a sad drive. I offered her some water in Price and she drank a little. She seemed confused and it was clear she could not tell who I was. She had been with us eleven years. I could not think about her too much or I would get teary eyed and not be able to drive.
My Mom and Dad had obtained her from a rat terrier rescue group and they had owned her for a year before we took her into our family. They were already at Peck Hollow, our camp in the La Sals when I arrived. My brother had warned them what sad cargo I carried with me, and they were concerned and sad when I pulled Doc’s carrier out of the vehicle. We opened it and she staggered out, scared and shaking. The smells of the La Sals were different from those she knew, but my Mom knelt down and petted her and my mom’s scent sent her small tail wagging.
My brother and I found a shady spot under an aspen tree and dug a hole. The loam was black and richly organic and we burrowed down about two feet. My Dad carved her name in the tree next to the grave.
We went back. My Mom had stayed and comforted her. I picked her up and many hands reached out and petted her head and said goodbye. We were all openly weeping as we carried her to the hole. I placed her in it and my Mom, Dad, and I turned away. My brother had kindly offered to shoot her in my stead, for which I was grateful. A few quick trigger pulls and Doc was still, curled up in the bottom of the hole as if she were asleep. We placed the blanket that she had slept in all her life over her and buried her. My Mom was worried about bears digging her up so we covered it with a heavy log and planted a snowberry bush over the grave. We then talked about her life. Her famous exploits. We did her fine honor.
In this conference Elder Uchtdorf said in talk, You Matter to Him, “Brothers and sisters, it may be true that man is nothing in comparison to the greatness of the universe. At times we may even feel insignificant, invisible, alone, or forgotten. But always remember-you matter to Him!”
Such I believe. I have tremendous and clear examples that small insignificant things—things tripping though a vast and complicated universe are of great worth despite the smallness of their size or the meagerness of their contributions to the great network of greater things. Even things that poop endlessly in the yard, eat entire bags of Halloween candy, sneak off with an entire year’s worth of tomatoes, or kill the neighbor’s chickens, matter much. Such gives me hope that I too am so loved and find place in a bigger heart than mine, and for whom I indeed matter.