Yesterday it was with sadness that two of my Facebook friends lost their dogs due to old age. To some, it was "just a dog!" Just a dog. To those of us, however, who are owned by our dogs, they were not "just a dog." They were four legged bundles of unconditional love, energy, healing, friendship, hope, opportunities of laughter, intimate moments filled with snuggles, shared times of happiness and more!
As I mourned with them, I thought of the many dogs I have had in my past. "Jack" was my first collie that I had at age eleven. Jack was my solace in a home that was full of abuse. he became my confidante. When I wanted to get away from the dysfunction, Jack and I took long walks together. I had such pride in that dog. When he had to be euthanized at age eleven due to arthritis that rendered him unable to walk, my world came crashing down. I was so angry! By this time, I was 22, still trying to find my own place in a confusing world and marriage. A miracle occurred, however. Within two weeks, a stray collie appeared and whose owner never claimed her. I named her, (what else!) "Lassie." Lassie and I became best friends, she knew all of my secrets and when life became too much for me, we would take long walks together, walks that would ease my burdens for a little while.
In all, I had many dogs but the one that truly turned my life around was a wayward setter puppy named Patrick! It was because of Patrick and his mischievous antics that a book was born and thus, a writing career! Yes, dogs do have a way of making us better people. D-O-G is G-O-D spelled backwards, after all.
Dogs also show us what true, unconditional love is like. Dogs serve us in many ways: police K-9s. War dogs. Service dogs for the blind and disabled. There are many instances of homeless people who have dogs. Those dogs weather the storms (literally), preferring to stay by the side of one who loves them rather than having a cozy home with plush couches. The unconditional love of dogs closely mirrors the love that Jesus has for each one of us. Regardless of our past (or present), regardless of our sins, Jesus loves us so much. Yet so many people cast Him off, just as many do their dogs. Dogs take a lot of abuse and yet, tail wagging, they come back time after time, in the hope that this time it will be the time they will be noticed for the attributes that are always appreciated.
I have worked with animals since I was 16 years old in some form. Boarding kennel caretaker, animal control officer, vet tech and more, I have seen the best and worst of humanity through the eyes of a dog and I have cried. Likewise, Jesus has also seen the best and worst of humanity and probably asks Himself, "was my death all in vain? Is this what it has come to then?"
Lent is just two days away. For me, Lent is a time of deep contemplation. What has happened since last Lent...how can I become a better person in the upcoming year? Lent is not just a six week period of reflection, it is a way of life, of walking in the same footsteps that Jesus walked all throughout His ministry. For good and for bad, He showed us through example, time and again, how we can be better people. Yet many people have decided that they know better; they create rules and religions to explain, in complex terms, the simplicity that Jesus taught us.
Let's break it down in terms a dog can understand: "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."
The same thing can be said for Jesus.
After all....d-o-g is G-o-d...spelled backwards.