A boy calls his parents from camp: "There are some dogs here, and one is little and is getting picked on by all the other dogs. Can I bring him home?" Unsurprisingly, his parents do not give their consent to this plan, yet a few days later when their son gets off the bus that brought him home, they see that his arms are not empty. The dog has already made its way into his heart, as it soon would theirs. Rocky Top, "Rocky" for short, would quickly become a treasured part of the Shafer family.
It's true that not everyone is an animal person. But for those of us who are, dogs are some of our most precious companions. Dogs become members of our family, a part of our familial fabric and routine. We love them dearly, as they exude many of the very qualities we wish that we as humans could perfect. They are unfailingly loyal. They can be fun and playful, yet cuddly and vulnerable. They forgive almost instantly. They stick with us through the good and the bad, always ready to listen or curl up next to us on the couch. For many of us, our dogs have seen us through life's milestones in a way that no person ever could. We love them because they are so, so good. But did they choose this goodness? Did they consciously decide to be gracious and faithful? No. It's in their very nature. You see, we love dogs because, when cared for and loved, they are perfectly themselves.
But maybe there is more. Maybe part of the reason we are so attached to our fur babies is because their very essence reminds us of the love of our Lord. A dog's love is unconditional. When we fail to walk them one day, when we are unable to give them the time or attention they deserve, when we are short with them or leave them at home alone for too long, a pup's love remains. Hasn't Jesus promised us this and so much more? God's love for us doesn't depend on what we do for Him. It is there, always and constant. Yes, our Lord delights in the time we spend with Him, but he doesn't love us less when we fail. God stands ready and hoping to listen to us, to experience life with us.
Rocky was an incredible dog, seeing Andrew & Elizabeth (and even the not-so-fond-of-dogs Rebecca) through so many life events. He was loyal and faithful and playful. He taught Andrew the value of a pet, a lesson that my own children are benefitting from greatly. Painfully, however, dogs cannot live forever. But even in their passing, they teach us great lessons of love and faith and grace.
We will miss you, sweet Rocky.