God’s Love and My Dogs
Meet my two Shih Tzu pups named Charlie (14) and Maisy Lou (13).
God gave them to me and my family so we could witness, practice, and ultimately experience the profound pain that comes with unconditional love. Frankly, I am not sure that I could have been shown this example by any other living being. What the dogs have taught me are the lessons of Jesus Christ, embodied in two furry souls who live to love and that’s all. That is their mission in life. To love. To walk in love, jump in love, play in love, snuggle in love, go on adventures in love, listen in love and give kisses in love.
And steal popcorn in love. Always popcorn.
Of course, there are a multitude of examples of unconditional love that I can point to throughout history that have inspired me, and millions of other people around the globe. From Mother Teresa to Gandhi and Jesus himself, God has gifted us with tremendous human beings to show us the way to live a life of love and light. However, I only know of these people and their teaching. Ours is a relationship based on shared ideas, not personal or close knowledge of each other.
Well, except for Jesus. My relationship with him is quite personal.
Now, it is not to say that as a mother, wife, daughter, and sister that I have not given and received unconditional love. My husband, kids, mom, and brothers all love me for me, and I love them. And I have a few friends who have slogged through the mud of life with me.
Even when I made the mud.
But let’s be honest, if I locked my husband in a closet, and my Charlie and Maisy in another closet, and came back an hour later, they would not all greet me with a kiss and happiness. My husband would be upset. Confused. Angry. Irritated.
I wouldn’t blame him.
But what about Charlie and Maisy? Well, they would wag their tails and even if they barked a gentle scolding, their upset wouldn’t last but a second. And it’s not because they are “animals” and don’t know any better. After all, they were created by God, who made them in love. They are love and love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8 ESV), even being put in a closet.
The dogs display God-like behavior.
And that is quite possibly why it is so hard for me to accept that Charlie is going to be saying his final goodnight rather soon. His health has dramatically changed, in a very short time frame. We know that there isn’t too much longer before we will kiss him goodnight for the last time. It is gut-wrenching to conceptualize a world without him.
Because Charlie is love.
He lives a life that God asked him, and us, to live. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16 ESV) God is within Charlie and he is a very powerful vessel through which I feel God’s presence and love. He is a special gift sent to me by God, to cloak me in love.
Frankly, I am not sure how life is going to feel without him and there isn’t one ounce of me that is eager to find out.
God knew I would need this dog.
I believe that God knew exactly how much I was going to need this gentle, funny clown of a Shih Tzu when he brought us together 14 years ago. He knew that I needed love to snuggle with after major surgery.
That I would need love to look into my eyes when I was crying in my darkest moments of failure.
And that I would need love to make me laugh when I had one of “those days” when everything went wrong.
God knew that when things were difficult with my people, my Charlie would just be still with me and help me to find the answers.
And while Charlie has cared for my heart for his entire life, I have the privilege of caring for him too. For 14 years I’ve clipped his nails, groomed him, gotten the gunk out of his eyes and bathed him. I’ve fed him, given him medication and made sure he was never in any danger of getting hurt.
I brought him to church to be blessed, to the lake to paddle in the kayak and to the top of Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunset. I’ve shared my meals, my ice cream and driven really slowly on the back roads, instead of the highway, so he could sit on my lap while we rode along. I protected him from the sound of the Fourth of July fireworks and put him in a pile of blankets on my bed when the power went out.
All through his life he has thanked me with love.
And so yesterday, while putting in an IV to give him much-needed fluids, I thanked him.
I thanked him for always loving me and for making me laugh.
I thanked him for being a mama’s boy and preferring to sleep on my bed instead of always in his.
I thanked him for calming me down when I was angry at the world and when I wept because of it.
I told him that his little puppy life has made a big difference. Without him, I wouldn’t have learned to be just a bit more patient, a bit more outwardly affectionate and even more silly when at play. I thanked him for forgiving me when I missed playtime because of work or for being late with dinner.
I apologized for the times I nicked his nails with the clipper and tugged too hard with the brush. I told him that I did my best to take care of him and that I would still take really good care of Maisy, who will be utterly lost without him.
I asked him to let me know when he was ready to say goodnight and that I would honor his life and not be selfish by holding on so tight that it would hurt him.
And then I cried. Again. And Again, knowing it is just the beginning of this heartbreak. I expect to cry a lot in the coming months but I know God will be with me, and with Charlie. In fact, I asked Charlie to give God some big kisses from me and to thank him for bringing us together. I’ve been thanking him already but I have a feeling Charlie will do it a little better in person.
As my Godmother said to me, deep love is costly! But to experience God’s love, through man or man’s best friend, is entirely worth it.
Have you lost a beloved pet? How did you cope?