A random rat terrier dies: Elder Uchtdorf’s address

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.


  1. Latter-day Guy says:

    Sweet and sad, SteveP. Made me remember when my family lost our dog. (She liked rodents too, though she was a mutt.) Sorry for your family’s loss.

  2. Awesome. Even sad dog stories are great stories. Here’s to Doc. And I add my regards to Tag and Blaise, my companions that are gone now too. Like you, I have hope that God loves me. But not because I love my dog, but because even on my worst day, my dog loves me with the pure love of Christ.

  3. Mommie Dearest says:

    I have my own elderly poop machine with a growing lump on his shin that his holistic veterinary oncologist ($$!) tells me is probably malignant. (I didn’t break out the big bucks for an invasive biopsy on a 13-year-old dog just to be sure.) He’s the quintessential beta dog, but he’s our beta dog, and he’s going to have a comfortable life as long as I can provide it for him. Right now that means favorite food, extra treats, and doggie ibuprofen. I don’t like to think much about later.

    My condolences to SteveP and his family.

  4. SteveP,
    That was a lovely tribute. Thank you.

  5. I’m one who absolutely feels that my pets are family. They’ve brought me endless joy, and the opportunity to serve my felling beings. Since humans matter to God, then I know that animals do because we’re not that different. Behold your little ones. Whatever ye do to the least of these, ye do to me. Because our animals depend on us so much, and love us so unconditionally, I feel they’re like children, only maybe moreso.

    I feel a close analogy of the way God feels toward us humans is to be found in the way we humans (some of us) feel toward our the other animals. We share a kinship — we’re all cousins — despite them being less sophisticated intellectually than humans. (And who is to say intellectual sophistication is any measure of what matters?) We’re in this relationship in which I’m playing the role to them of a god, of sorts. And I feel a responsibility as a nascent god to represent our Father in Heaven for them as faithfully as I can. I think maybe the reason he wants us to be good to his little ones is because that’s what he would do, that’s how he wants us to show them he lives. He wants us to be his hands in our interactions with them, gentle, tender, good.

    I’m so sorry about Doc. Watching loved ones die is never easy, but particularly poignant is the death of those who depend upon us so entirely. May Heavenly Father bless Doc and your family, and may you be reunited in heaven.

  6. Oh Steve… you’ve made me cry. Bless Doc; I think you must be right- if God cares about such small things, how much must we all matter, despite our failings and foibles.

  7. The only pet I truly cared about was an Akita half-breed we had from my teenage years to my mid-20’s. Great with kids (even kids it didn’t know), loved our family, but a terror to human and animal trespassers alike. And he was fast enough that any cat wanting to take its chances at our sandbox risked its life crossing our fence. He didn’t bark much–that fact, plus his speed, size, smarts, and natural hunting skills almost convinced us he was part wolf. He was a big help to me during my teenage years–a friend who always liked me, who was always happy to see me, no matter how difficult things were in other areas of my life.

    He slowed down in later life. He broke his leg, but we weren’t willing to part with him yet, so we had the vet fix it. Months later, we could tell he was in pain and dying, so we took another trip to the vet. Losing him was just as hard as losing a grandparent.

    I’m sorry about your loss, SteveP. I am not certain how heaven operates, but I hope–for your sake and mine–that there’s a chance to be reunited with loved ones, even if they aren’t human beings.

  8. Steve, your tribute is beautiful. We connect with and love deeply other living and non-living creations of our Father. Pets become family, forests and canyons become home and everything passes in this world, in God’s plan.

    Thank you for your lovely, heart-touching reminder of Elder Uchtdorf’s message of our Father’s love for each of us and all of his creation. Most of us, I would say all of us, at least at times, feel alone, unnoticed, and we struggle with that as we’re surrounded by people who seem to be happy, connected, part of everything. We do matter to Him, however, and we matter to each other; we just need to show it better.

  9. This was beautiful, Steve – and an excellent reminder of what Pres. Uchtdorf taught.

  10. Sharee Hughes says:

    I cried as I read this. It is hard to lose a well-loved pet. It reminded me of my parents’ dog. She was a mixed-breed that my sister-in-law had rescued as a pup, She was epilectic all her life (and hated having to take the pills the vet prescribed for her) and developed arthitis in her later years. But she loved us and had a special place in her heart for my dad. He was for a time both a host on Temple Square and a Temple worker. That dog knew exactly what time on each of those days that he would be coming home and would bother my mother until she put the leash on to walk her down to the bus stop to greet my dad. When the vet told us that her constant panting was an attempt to relieve pain, we knew we had to have her put down. I held her in my arms as the vet gave her the shot that would end both her pain and her life. We then took her back home where my mother had already prepared a spot for her final resting place. We put her in the ground, wrapped in a large towel, and I told my father we should say a prayer. He began, but choked up too much and asked me to say it. So I did, although I, too, was crying. My dad refused to ever have another pet. Losing Sandy had been too hard on him. I think we will see Sandy again one day. And Steve, no doubt you wil see Doc again. There must be a special place in Heaven for faithful pets.

  11. Great post, Steve.

    May I say that while I’ve been antagonistic at times toward some of your posts the thoughts you express here really resonate with me. And may I also say that embracing the life sciences (which I do — believe it or not) really help me to view every life as a biological miracle and further deepens my disappointment that any of them — great or small — should inevitably come to an end.

  12. Loved this. Brought back the memory of the loss of several of our animal friends. Purdy a beloved parakete, Tiger a little rat, Chess a sweet dog that bit and had to be put down, and Toed a cat that was our first real pet as grown ups, he just got to old to enjoy his kitty life. There have been other pets we have lost but these were felt keenly. I hope they all continue on in some realm and hope that we might enjoy their association again.

  13. Our family recently had to say goodbye to a dog. I wasn’t expecting us to get attached so fast. It was a very tearful day.

  14. I’m with Joseph Smith on this one. Orson F. Whitney said that Joseph Smith believed that his favorite horse would be in the Celestial Kingdom and that they would be reunited. More references available here: http://lds.org/ensign/1977/03/i-have-a-question (see the 2nd question)

  15. One of our first 2 cats we had grew on me as time went on. At first, she was alley cat, looking for food. Sometimes, she got into trouble around the house. Yet, as time went on, she became a part of the family. When she was 14+, she developed thyroid cancer, becoming just skin & bone, and we had to put her down.

  16. I cried softly as I read your story and recalled putting down the only dog we had. It was the most emotional and painful loss I can every remember experiencing and I wasn’t born “recently”.

    I have since learned, with great solace, that God _does_ love all His creations, big and small. His love gives truly a peace that “passeth all understanding”. Those pets who succor us are God’s gift and God’s love to us and when their time is through, they surely return to their Maker.

  17. Isn’t the corrolary to this that everyone matters to God, even the people we don’t like or find disgusting or whose politics we don’t like? As for pets, I know I won’t get half the tears that were shed when we had to put our beloved hound down.

  18. Beautiful, Steve. I’ve put up with a dog that has ruined carpets, furniture, and cost us thousands of dollars in vet bills for the simple reason that my son loves her. I suspect that when she dies, even I will shed some tears, and mourn with my son. In hard moments of his life, he has turned to his dog. He is learning, little by little, to also turn to God. Surely his devotion to his pet teaches him something about God’s love for him. Probably any iteration of love teaches us something about God.

  19. Steve, thanks for putting these thoughts together. Thanks for sharing a private, and I would say sacred, moment with us. I’ve kept my little dog by my side all day (it’s been a tough day for many reasons), and I know something of the love that can grow between us and our pets. I love how lyrically you tied your experience into Pres. Uchtdorf’s talk. Wonderful to me.

  20. Steve Evans says:

    Steve, you’re the best. Thanks.

  21. Mommie Dearest says:

    I fully expect to be quite the crazy cat lady in the hereafter.

  22. Thanks everyone for sharing these stories and feelings. it really made my weekend reading about the relationships we share with these creatures.

    I’ve been thinking about Tatiana @5’s comment, “I think maybe the reason he wants us to be good to his little ones is because that’s what he would do, that’s how he wants us to show them he lives. He wants us to be his hands in our interactions with them, gentle, tender, good.”


    Margaret’s @18’s “Probably any iteration of love teaches us something about God.”

    as summing up the whole reason we are down here.

    Thanks everyone. You touched my heart more than you know.

  23. Why didn’t you just pay your local vet the $75 to put her down humanely instead of pumping her full of bullets, causing her much pain? I find your “tribute” heartless and disgusting. You don’t deserve the love and devotion of a pet. I hope you never get one again.

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