Simba, My Balaam’s Donkey

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Balaam was a “prophet for hire” during the Old Testament Bible times. People would hire him to try and get answers or favor from God. Numbers 22:21-34 describes the event of Balaam riding his donkey to see a client when the donkey balked and would not continue on the trail, even after being strongly goaded on by Balaam. The donkey saw an obstacle in the pathway that Balaam was blind to. It was a messenger from God that prompted the donkey to warn Balaam about the serious errors he was committing. Balaam responded by accepting the warning and changing his goals for that client to what God wanted.

What a happy little guy!

Hello, I’m Kevin, and I would like to share a story with pet lovers everywhere. About four years ago I received a beautiful and friendly cavapom named Simba from a family member. At the end of a several week long visit I was packing my car to leave and he got out of the house three times to jump in the car and leave with me. It was especially odd because I had not been taking him with me for rides, but he saw the luggage and knew something was up. He didn’t get to go with me that time but during the next visit the relative asked me to take him, so I did. He was a well-behaved little dog and an incredible companion to me. Everyone who met him said how adorable he was, and wherever we went together he would just patiently wait for me to make the next move. He really enjoyed his treats though, which proved to be his downfall.

“Simba’s Turndown Service”, whether I requested it or not.
I just made that bed, but at least no mint left on the pillow!

I noticed that if Simba was getting many treats he would become increasingly anxious about getting more and more, like a person with an appetite that was progressing into a habit or addiction. If I carefully managed the fun in his life he would take it as it was offered and everything was fine. But there was always the temptation in me and others to spoil him, triggering another bout with the really frustrating “treat monster” in him.

I decided a few years ago that God was making Simba into a sort of “Balaam’s donkey” for me. If I was in a period of indulging my own appetites or allowing others to successfully tempt me, Simba was also “enjoying” the fruits of my excess. So his neurotic tantrums became a warning from God to me when I was damaging my own health. Dogs and people share some common obesity related health issues like diabetes (can cause excessive hunger and thirst, maybe part of his food begging) and heart or breathing problems (for them, excessive panting with a honking and choking cough). So God put Simba in my life so his health related behavior could warn me when I was not managing my lifestyle properly.

After periods of success and failure at managing our fitness and diet, Simba’s panting and coughing steadily worsened. Our most recent self-indulgent period led to a severe episode in him that caused a four hour experience under anesthesia with an oxygen tube trying to keep his windpipe and collapsing lungs open. It was an emotionally painful experience for me. Simba struggled to wake up from that, and even though he mostly recovered his breathing problem was still severe, and I had to make the difficult decision to end his life. The vet said it was the obesity that damaged him, mainly too much fat squeezing his trachea which eventually caused him so much breathing anxiety the stress inflammation caused the emergency. For a year or more he had been struggling to breathe and showing me his anxiety and pain with his honking type of cough and spitting. Maybe a strict diet could still have helped him, but he was over sixteen and surely would have more difficulties, so I had him euthanized on June 6th, 2023.

Please don’t let this happen to you or yours.

The idea of voluntarily ending a dependent’s life is difficult to explain to someone who has not been through it. There is guilt that I was responsible for protecting his health but actually caused his condition, so his discomfort and early end is mostly my fault. I also feel uncomfortable remembering the many times I yelled at him and made him go outside so I could get some peace during his outbursts, even on the day of his emergency. There is also the feeling that I am selfish, that after he so eagerly chose to move in with me and trust me with his life I ruined his health and then decided to end him when he became a burden. Maybe I should have become more devoted to his care and helped him enjoy a little more time.

I know that my experience with Simba is only a small taste of what other people have struggled with when losing their loved ones, but I feel I can now understand their grief a little. Maybe I can keep a soft heart to empathize with people better.

Bible verses like Romans 5:3-4 and James 1:2-4 about dealing with afflictions and trials have a deeper meaning for me now. I have been leaning on God and asking Him to make this experience exactly what He wants for me to learn and grow from. For the developing endurance part of those verses, I hope to make Simba’s loss a long term guide for improving my own lifestyle related health issues. It would be a way for me, like Balaam, to respond to God’s warning and deal with my own inner “treat monster”.

Thank You, God, for giving me Simba.

Do you have a Balaam’s donkey? (pet or person!) Learn from my experience and enjoy a better life for both of you. Take a frank look at your lifestyle choices, the sooner the better.

Then thank God for Simba helping you both.

I feel that “doggy heaven” is only a place in our minds where we treasure the memories of our lost pets, but still, I want to say goodbye Simba, thank you for your companionship and I’m sorry for not protecting you, I love you.

Monsoon duty in Arizona-
never a break for the guardians of life and liberty!
I bet he dreamed of flying up there with them.
(This one woke up and flew away)

Simba chased birds for years but this is the only one he ever
brought me.

Simba in his happy hunting ground in Idaho. (circled in red)
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