My Apology to Freddy

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Last November, my little dog Freddy died under the most tragic circumstances. 

Twelve-pound, chihuahua-Jack Russell-mix, white-and-brown, short-haired, big-eared Freddy had been with us for only six years. My daughter found him and his brother at the pound and gave him to us as a tiny puppy. We’d watched him grow into the smartest, best little dog-man in the world. 

I’d take him to the park to ride in my basket along miles of Orange Trail, Orlando’s recreational circulatory system filled with walkers and bikers. On the empty stretches, I’d take him out of the basket to run alongside me like a cheetah, tongue dangling, eyes wild, with me screaming “Go Freddy!” like a hysterical fan at the Olympics. For a person with a serious, responsibility-filled life, these childlike moments of shared glee became important self-care. Never once did Freddy jump from the basket, even when I slowed to a crawl. I thought he never would. 

But then Mike and I biked in Wekiva Park one Sabbath, Freddy perched on the edge of my basket like a living masthead. Toward the end of our ride, Mike disappeared around a corner and—I realize now—wild instinct pulsed through my dog’s canine heart. He couldn’t bear separation from the alpha male of our family “pack.” Freddy suddenly, freakishly, hurled his compact little body out of my basket, landing straight in front of my tire, a positioning that led to a forceful impact and a yelp-screech. Due to my speed, it took me a full 30 feet to slow enough to throw my bike down, scream Freddy’s name, and wheel around in desperate hope he’d survived. 

What I saw has frozen itself in my memory. Freddy’s body lay on its side, his stubby legs forking the air, motionless. But my little guy wagged his tail at the sound of my scream. I ran to him, scooped him into my arms, placed him in the basket, and rode like hell to the parking lot, blood streaming everywhere. Again cradling him in my arms, I cried to Michael and then to the park ranger in the gatehouse, who told us of a nearby animal hospital. 

We prayed as Mike drove for ten eternity minutes. Arriving, I burst inside, still-breathing-but-unconscious-man’s-best-friend bleeding in my arms. “My dog got hit by a bike!” I bawled to the young lady at the desk. In spite of the closing time that had already come and gone, the kind doctor hooked my dog up to a breathing machine and began to run tests. In what was probably idiotic hope, we then transferred still-unconscious Freddy to another clinic that did overnight care, skulking home under a cloud of foreboding that gave way to despair when the call came at 11PM. “He’s shutting down. The brain damage is so bad he can’t run his body anymore. His blood isn’t clotting. We could give him clotting factor, but it will only delay the . . .”  

“Okay. Just put him down.” 

We buried Freddy in our field where he’d soon become part of the earth he loved and hung so close to, being small. Nature surged with life all around our dead friend—the bugs he’d snapped at, buzzing past, little mice he’d chased peeking out, wild grass that once welcomed his cheetah-like, running form waving in the wind. Our hearts surged too, in convulsing pain at his loss. I asked every evangelist I know if I’d see my dog in heaven. I even called Steve Wohlberg, who’d written Will My Pet Go to Heaven? to just hear another dog-lover reassure me, but hung up before he answered, not wanting to be weird. 

But I am weird. I really loved Freddy. And Freddy loved me. 

My heart has mended very slowly. . . I take that back; it never will. There’s still a little portion of it that occasionally falls open as if unhinged, spilling tears, regrets and realizations that I still miss him and, until heaven, always will. The remorse eats at me, too. I’m sorry it was my bike and my carelessness that killed him. But in a more big-picture way, I’m sorry for the fragility of corporeal existence, brought upon creation by human choice. Members of the animal kingdom have suffered the results of a spiritual fall they lacked even the faculties to cause themselves. And in that sense the dogs, cats, squirrels, and cheetahs of the world are innocent victims. 

So, here’s my apology and my promise to Freddy, taken from Paul’s writings: 

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” Romans 8:19-22. 

Soon, when the children of God are “revealed,” apokalypsis, uncovered, God will liberate the creation from bondage and we will love one another for eternity. Jesus, be uncovered in me today that I may hasten your coming. 

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33 thoughts on “My Apology to Freddy

  1. mike s Reply

    I am dead too. I’ve been run over by the gospel. I let it kill me that way. Now I still have to summon interest in this world so the flow of God’s agape love can move me around to Matthew 10:8 somebody who is painfully alive still.

  2. Chrissie Reply

    I’m sorry for your loss, Jen. Yes, I’ve had similar loss. I think of Duchess – a border collie that was with our family from the pound…We must have had her over 12 years, I don’t really know. She would position Mr. McGillicuddy, a very short haired but large mixed breed also from the pound, at one hole for a groundhog and she’d find the main escape route and dig them out chewing through roots as big as your waist (I’ve seen you in person and yes that big!) or move ancient stone walls and not stop to eat or drink until the job was finished. They had many pups over the years, some given away, some staying with us. She was our baby sitter on our 135 acres of woods and fields. She was our protector, our constant companion. She was family.

    Mr. McGillicuddy was left a widower when I came with my new husband to visit. We had a couple hours with my parents and siblings, and as we got into the car and started it up as everyone continued their goodbyes…I have 7 younger siblings…no one wanted us to leave. Finally, we backed out of the driveway…oh no! We stopped the car and got out. We had just driven over our Duchess! Was she gone as she laid against the tire? Did our exhaust put her to sleep? Was she just lying down and we ran her over? We won’t know this side of heaven, but siblings blamed us for killing her. I blamed us…

    Then the losses of Sugar, Pomeranian who never knew how to bark until we taught her, Shatan (the Black) our dark German Shepherd who had to be put to sleep because he was in pain and filled with cancers…Ginger-Miniature Pinscher who was my first service dog…and now I watch my second service dog, My Buddy, gotten as a 9 week old pup, went through training together, obedience and service dog training, going from dark red Golden Retriever to white muzzle and white eyebrows, almost 11 years old now, with white hair all through his coat…and I realize that sin, my sin, is making creation groan…and we have my dad’s Cock-a-Poo-Pom, who is black with gray hair throughout his coat too, he’s only a few months younger than my Golden.

    We have him because my dad had dementia and couldn’t care for him, and then in December of 2018, Dad – 88 years, 1 week, and a few hours old, went to sleep in Jesus too and is sleeping next to my mom, one sister and one brother, an aunt, maternal grandparents and a cousin…and I am so thankful for the book that Steve Wohlberg wrote, because previous pastors had said our dogs won’t be in heaven, but he gave me hope! I will see my family again, my four-footed family along with my biological family. Come soon, Lord Jesus, come soon!

    I am sorry for your loss, Jen. I am sorry for my own. Praise the Lord for the blessed hope! Soon, soon and very soon we are going to see our King!

  3. Deana Reply

    My heart breaks for your loss, Jenn. My husband lost his beloved Midnight on New Years Eve 2 years ago. Seeing him mourn to this day breaks my heart for those who have lost a family member who just so happened to walk on four paws. Midnight was my husband’s baby sister and I know Freddy was your baby boy. He is missed indeed. Till Jesus returns…

  4. Ann Thrash-Trumbo Reply

    The hardest thing we do here is say goodbye, isn’t it? I hate it now worse than ever. And it’s those final goodbyes that sting the most. And keep stinging. Beloved pets, beloved parents, beloved friends… O Lord Jesus, please come. I know he has a plan to set all wrongs right. I don’t know how he’s going to do it but I just have to believe that somehow, in the restoration of all things, those losses are included. Joining you in pain & hope, Jen…

  5. Laura Reply

    I bawled my eyes out reading that, knowing and understanding what you felt, having felt similar pain though different circumstances. I just KNOW God understands that we love our pets and will take care of this situation for us! At least we know all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more pain, loss, sickness, death, suffering. Sending ??.

  6. Laura Leach Reply

    I bawled my eyes out reading that, knowing and understanding what you felt, having felt similar pain though different circumstances. I just KNOW God understands that we love our pets and will take care of this situation for us! At least we know all tears will be wiped away, and there will be no more pain, loss, sickness, death, suffering. Sending ??.

  7. Laura Reply

    That was supposed to be a heart, not two question marks. I guess the system didn’t recognize that. Sorry.

  8. Ella Rydzewski Reply

    I wept when I read your post. It has been two years since I lost my Smokey a large Ragdoll cat. He was my best friend. Though we had cats before and lost them over the years, nothing affected me as did the loss of Smokey. I loved him so extremely. I haven’t gotten over it yet. They say I should be thankful for having him 12 years. I certainly am, he was with me as entered my senior years, and I needed him. I didn’t think much about getting old until he left me. We took him to the vets for respiratory problems. The shock came when the vet told me he had a large mass in his body and we might as well put him to sleep. We took him home but he got weaker, couldn’t eat, and lost weight. Every day I awoke with anxiety and fluttering inside and then tremors. Finally more vet visits, ultrasound and x-ray, my husband took him back to the vet for the last time.
    I couldn’t face it. By the time we got back to Loma Linda for the winter, I was still depressed and saw a counselor who directed me to a senior support group. This was a big mistake because I came out of it worse than I went in and had been given an antidepressant that sent my BP so high it affected my kidneys. I aged years over that short time and was no longer as active as I had been. I yearned for Smokey but my husband said we would have no more cats. Things are better now, but I regret trying to fix it with an incompetent doctor who didn’t look at my medical record of hypertension. So losing a pet can hurt in more ways than I ever imagined. I also read the Wohlberg book for comfort. I believe more than ever our God is more wonderful and loves more than we can imagine. I can picture Smokey running over the living green hills of the new earth. He is buried on such a hill where he used like to get away and run.

    I got him at age 4 when his owner found he didn’t stand correctly for her hoped-for cat show gigs. He had papers but was no longer needed! I answered an on-line ad and picked him right away. He was so big I couldn’t get him in the carrying cage I brought, but the lady who sold him to me stuffed him in anyway. He complained all the way home. For his cat box I had to get a file storage box to accommodate his size.

    We went for walks together everyday–he walked beside me like a dog and didn’t need to be tied. But to protect from ticks we got a carriage I pushed him around in. We took him for winters with us to Florida and then to California until the summer of 2017. I miss him so much. Below is something I wrote while he was alive.

    Grief After Loss
    Memories of Smokey
    2001-2017

    He lies down beside me as I begin the day’s work on my computer. I am drawn to touch his soft fur that flows into several shades of gray to almost white through his coat. He is so like the toy cotton cat I carried around during age 3 to 5. I used to stop and kiss it a lot with that special feeling that centers in the lips—a sensation of love.

    Whenever he comes close, that same desire takes over to cuddle and pet him and even put my face in the soft fluffy down that he wears. I am always amazed at the size of his feet—this is no ordinary cat—he is large compared to most cats. At almost 20 pounds. His feet are white but look a little soiled from walking on the floor. Little tufts of hair emerge from between each toe. His large body, made larger with so much fine hair sports a long tail that is more like a mop. His face is also large and flat but more pleasant looking than those pushed-in faces of some breeds. Long white whiskers protrude from each side the nose. His eye are blue, a bit pale but still quite blue. Based on the points of his Siamese ancestors his face is a darker gray, but with a white chin.
    The ears are darker too and seem to reflect his mood from forward—content—to back—annoyed. No one needs to tell me this; I instinctively know. We are close and know each other’s moods. We talk—me in a childish tone and him in many different kinds of meows from urgent—I want food or come play with me or I want to go to the basement—to short mews of acknowledgement when I touch him or walk into the room.

    He often invites me to play or greets me by rolling over so that his tummy can be petted. This begins some wrestling type of play, and we are like kittens together. I wonder how much he misses the other cats he lived with when we brought him here at age 4; now he is ten years old. We are growing old together. He is my gift from God.

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      “I can picture Smokey running over the living green hills of the new earth. He is buried on such a hill where he used like to get away and run.” I love that, Ella! Thanks for sharing your beautifully-written story of love and ache and all that stuff. Soon we’ll be home.

  9. Rodlie Ortiz Reply

    Wow. This is so deep, Jennifer. I was on the verge of crying as I read this. I’m so sorry for your loss. Really. I have a dog, Charlie. He’s 2 years old. He’s a complete part of the family. We love him. So I can only imagine how you must be feeling.

    I do believe you’ll see your little guy, Freddy, in heaven. Praying for you, sis! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  10. Marilyn Reply

    I really could write a short story about Maxie, but to save the readers eyes on this site, I’ll try to keep it short. I had a wonderful seventeen years with an amazing dog who came from the local animal shelter. She was so unique that she’d make a great “James Herriot” story like the one about the dog who rarely barked, “Only One Woof”. Maxie was so aware and sensitive to humans that she learned quickly what inside behavior was meant to be and only became dog like outdoors when she could see squirrels, chipmunks and smell all those wonderful scents. After I had shoulder surgery, I told Maxie that she had to walk without a leash and be good, and she totally understood. She really stayed right beside me. Thanks to our daughter Heidi she learned some french words too–like sidewalk (Trotoirre?) and sit down, lie down, etc. She also did yoga stretches each morning and if I asked her if she’d done her stretch, she’d demonstrate again to proove she understood me. I took her to the Nazareth Boy’s Home where I worked and she did all kinds of tricks for the boys including playing dead, dancing on two feet, crawling, rolling over, giving her paw and playing hide and seek. There is no relationship we can compare our pets to. They are family members and losing them is a deep heart wrenching thing, no matter how it happens. The day I had to put her down, she lay on a bed in the vet’s office and put her paw on my arm looking at me with trusting eyes. I cried so hard, they had to bring out a box of tissues and somehow I saw them crying along. It was somewhat comforting to have my husband there to support me. But the real comfort of any loss is to realize that Jesus didn’t mean for us to endure death without hope in the resurrection. I have not been able to replace her and no dog seems quite the same to me. That’s the way a special bond is I think. It’s important to keep finding ways to love, and eventually against my husband’s wishes, we ended up with an orange cat. I don’t let myself go as crazy about bonding with her–the pain is so great, I admit. But we are very good to her—except my heart is torn still. I think when we love someone or a special pet, we want that bond to last forever and we almost expect it to. We are wired for everlasting love. Jenn, I am so sorry for your loss…deeply sorry. Keep those good memories fresh and alive.

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      Wow, Marilyn, I had no idea she was so special. Thanks for your wonderful testimony. Why would a loving God not find a way to bring our pets back? He can do anything. I believe.

  11. Grace P. Cox Reply

    I cried, as I am sure many other readers did as well. I know you are getting lots of sharing stories; those of us who have ever loved a pet have suffered the loss. I’ve suffered many as my life has been filled with pets as long as I can remember. Each one was special in its own way and each loss was also special. The one I grieved the very most over was Cricket, our chihuahua who was a great PR dog for chihuahuas. Friendly with everyone, sweet, and how she loved to play ball! When someone rang the doorbell, she would dash to find her ball and greet them by dropping the ball at their feet and backing up to watch where they would toss it. She could play that game for hours. It was May, 1980. I had gone from home in CA to WV to visit my mother for a week. On Wednesday night of that week, I became unbearably sad and spent sleepless hours weeping for I knew not what. My husband met my return flight at LA X, and half-way home over the Grapevine, he sadly informed me that we didn’t have Cricket anymore. My heart broke in a thousand pieces and I wept the rest of the way home. The rest of that day, that night, the next day, until my tears were all drained, but the ache went on and one, with frequent episodes of more tears as my heart produced them.

    It was Wednesday evening (the night of my deep sadness) when my husband was getting ready to leave to attend the evangelistic meetings that were going on at our church. He was head deacon. Just before he left, the doorbell rang and he answered it. Then within minutes he left. When he got home a few hours later, he couldn’t find Cricket in the house. He realized she must have escaped when he answered the door. So with a flashlight, he searched the neighborhood for hours in the dark. He finally found her at daybreak, where she had been smashed on the street. That dog was as precious to him as she was to me, and his grief and regret and guilt were relentless. He told me had buried her, but it was his secret where, and though he lived for 20 more years, he never told me where she was buried. We left CA in 1985, relocated to WV, and in 1990 he became terminally ill. I was tempted to ask him again where had he buried Cricket, but I didn’t. I let him take the secret to the grave with him. Somehow, it must have been a comfort to him to be the only person on earth who knew where she was resting.

    Now, one more story, of Chico, our 16 year old Chihuahua who was so precious. But out of love, we finally had him put to sleep to end his suffering of the pangs of old age. Still, it was very sad, and on the way home with his little body on a towel in my lap, the words of the following poem began to form in my heart:
    My poem for Chico after he died (1989)
    Whisper, wind, through reed and bough
    Tell all you meet that Chico, now
    Resting, lies on yonder knoll.
    Weep. O clouds, your tears like rain
    When you hear wind’s sad refrain
    That son of Midnight Thunderhead,
    Beneath small mound of earth
    lies, dead.
    Hide, O sun, your face in pain
    Because Chico never will again
    Warm himself within your beam.
    Hush, O hush all singing birds
    Till you can sing a sad, low dirge
    for Chico, son of Midnight Thunderhead,
    Who lies there, dead.
    Grow, green grass, and quickly spread
    Across the mound that is a bed
    For Chico now on yonder knoll.
    Bloom wild flowers at forest edge
    Where weeping hearts renewed their pledge
    of love for Chico, noblest son
    of Midnight Thunderhead,
    Who, now, lies dead.

    But on a happier note, here is a poem I wrote for him while he was still vibrantly alive:
    Poem for Chico
    Small friend, so faithful,
    you crave my attention, my touch.
    You’re my constant companion,
    and I love you so much.
    You express your delight in me
    without reservation.
    After the briefest absence
    you greet me in joyous elation.
    You listen to my voice,
    catching every inflection,
    and watch my face
    for signs of rejection.
    When I laugh, you’re happy,
    if I frown, you’re sad.
    You adjust to my mood
    whether good or bad.
    You’re so fierce when you play
    your watchdog role.
    Your bark is so loud,
    your stance so bold.
    You’re so small, I could almost
    put you in my pocket.
    But into my heart I’ve put you instead
    and I’ve locked it.
    By Grace Pennington (Cox)

    May God give you peace. I too have read Steve Wohlberg’s book, and I want to believe that we will see replicas of our precious pets in the earth made new! I know Christ didn’t shed his blood for them; but I know He shed it for us, and I know He can create them anew for our benefit if He chooses to do so. I hope He does so choose! 🙂

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      Oh, Grace. How very moving and lovely. You are a true and gifted writer, and your poem was exquisite. I cried, of course. I can’t wait to meet you AND your dogs in the world to come.

  12. Paul Ravina Reply

    Hi Jen,

    I have to believe that our animal friends will be in heaven with us. Why? Because we have a loving God, a God who knows what these animals mean to us. So yes, Freddy will be there (and our Maxie will get to play with him).

    It could have been even worse: we could have lost You.

    We had a wonderful friend named Liz, a teacher of special needs students and the mother of her own three children (middle school and high school age). One awful day her bike crashed… probably due to an ignorant driver coming too close, and some dirt and pebbles in the road. She had a helmet on, but still suffered a brain injury when her head hit the pavement. Her helmet cracked, and her head cracked too. She was in a coma for a couple of months… and finally died. Marilyn massaged her feet and sang to her while she was in her coma. I hope she felt that love. We miss her a lot.

  13. Neville Peter Reply

    I lost my older brother when I was 18. He was 21. Sometimes I wonder what he would be like now if he were alive. Unfortunately it is moments like these that remind us that this world is not our home. We are just passing through. I guess the blessing of loss is that it helps us to look forward to the day when good things will not have an ending.

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      Yes, this world isn’t the destination, it’s the journey. Sorry for the loss of your brother, Neville. Thanks for being who are and blessing so many of us.

  14. Rob Davison Reply

    Hi Jen, thanks for sharing your heart and grief and joy over Freddy. I think of Romans 8:19-22 too and also how death is such an enemy, never meant to be. We hate death, and the suffering before and after death. I love God’s promises that the enemy death will never be our experience again, once He takes it out of the way permanently. I have put down three beloved dogs in the past and know the heart-wrench of it. We currently have a chihuahua/corgi mix, 15 years old and slowly dying. She was hardly eating for a while now, suffered two seizures yesterday and now is not eating at all. She, of course, is loved. We obtained her as a rescue dog at 4 years old and she wouldn’t respond to the new name we gave her – Peanut. So we kept the name she knew – Precious. My sister, who has rescued dozens of dogs and cats told me yesterday that I am the soul mate of Precious. Precious sticks by my side constantly when I am home, sulks in sad resignation when I have to leave, and goes crazy with joy and playfulness when I return. Now, in her weakened state, when I return, she musters up enough strength to wag the end of her tail. Death was never meant to be and God suffers with us in the pain of it all. It gives us new perspective on the preciousness of life (pun intended), and the abhorrence of sin that leads to death. I have put the timing of the end of Precious in God’s hands and have asked for the discernment to know when she knows it is time. A lump in my throat comes just thinking about it. Yes, I believe that our loving God who gave us these loving animals, will bless us and them, with their resurrection too. I so look forward to the reunions with our beloved pets and loved ones He has given us, that are sleeping in Jesus. Thanks again for sharing Jen. God bless your caring heart for the innocent animals that have graced and enriched our lives. God is glorified and eternally praised for His great compassion’s and unfailing and eternal love. He is awesome. So are his precious animals!

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      Rob, how heart-breaking. Precious loves you so! May God give you resilience and firm hope through the days to come. Thanks for being who you are.

  15. Bill Weber Reply

    I’m so very sorry for your heart-wrenching experience, Jennifer. I was tearing up as I read about Freddy and saw that photo, and now I’m sitting here sobbing as I recall having to make the crushing decision to take my 17-year-old cat, sweet Sammy, to be put down at the vet on my son Billy’s birthday. He had gotten so thin and weak, had stopped eating, would slam into the counter as he tried to jump up on the bathroom sink to have me turn the faucet on for him to drink. He was diabetic, and although Methyl-B12 helped him regain his walking, the disease had slowly eaten away at him. He used to sleep beside me with one front and one back paw cradling my arm. At the vet that fateful day, after they gave him the first of two injections, I put my arm on the table beside him and placed one front and one back paw over it. The second shot was given. … I can’t continue writing about it. … The only family some people have is their pet dog or cat. I believe we’ll be reunited with our dear pets when Jesus returns. Why would He not want to fulfill the request I know I’d make, I know you and so many others would make, of bringing our beloved companions to life so they can live with us eternally? I think we need to comfort one another with such words. May Freddy and Sammy rest peacefully until that great, wonderful reunion day.

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Post authorReply

      Wow, Bill. What a moving account of a sweet furry friend. Thank you for sharing and I hope the tears provoked by my blog were cleansing and enriching rather than a downer. Our tender feelings of love prove our Imago Dei design. God is the most tender pet-lover of all. And yes, why would He not bring them back to us if it would make heaven even more special?

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