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Puppy Love

Updated: Aug 25, 2022

One year, six months, 13 days.

"Grace" August 9, 2022


That is how long our little German Shepherd Dog, “Grace,” lived. A car struck and killed her on August 10.


I have not said anything publicly about her death until now. It is just too hard.


Our family knew her as "Baby Grace," "Gracie-B," or "Grace-girl."


Her parents are both GSDs we rescued. She was very loving, and like most puppies, she loved to play and cuddle.


We have worked with German Shepherds of a wide range of ages and temperaments for nearly 25 years.[1] It has been our joy to rescue, rehab, train, and ultimately re-home many GSDs with qualified families. In the process, God has blessed us with several that became part of our family.


Grace proved to be a quick learner and showed herself to be obedient off-leash in public places, parking lots, and around strangers.

We believed she had the characteristics we could mold into a certified therapy dog like our well-known “Boomer.”


Still, despite our love and training, the unthinkable happened; she ran into traffic, was hit by a car, and later died.


About eight weeks ago, in the same place that a car hit Grace, I spent 15-20 minutes in the pouring rain from a thunderstorm chasing a little terrier in and out of traffic. When I finally caught it, it bit me. I was grateful to have saved it and reunited it with its owner, even though I had to see a doctor and take antibiotics for the serious infection that followed.


"Boomer"


I am thankful to have saved others, but I could not save our own. As I sat in the Vet ER waiting for word on Grace, I cried my eyes out.


Grace was very attentive and had proven herself to be obedient. That morning, I took her out to our front yard, as I had done since she could walk. She turned and saw a dog on the other side of the road.


Immediately, I yelled from across our yard, “Nein, Grace! Nein! Nein!" But the noise of a loud engine and exhaust drowned out my voice. She did not hear me and, in a moment, ran towards the dog and into traffic.


After I had rushed her to the Vet ER, and X-Rays were taken, I learned she had suffered a torn diaphragm and cracked pelvis. With my wife, Debbie, listening by phone, the doctor told me about the extensive surgery she needed, the cost, and the uncertainty that she would even survive.


I cried, "Lord, what am I going to do?"


Before I had time to even agonize about the decision, she died of cardiac arrest. My heart broke. She only lived 560 days.


As I share my experience, I hope those who do not know what it is to bond with an animal will try to understand. While my grief over Grace does not compare to the death of my parents, whom I miss every day, it still cut me very deep.


People have called me the "dog whisperer" because of my apparent ability to connect with dogs. I have seen God use our GSDs wherever I took them (hospitals, nursing homes, schools, churches, basketball games, and many public places). Over the years, the dogs I handled have brought joy and encouragement to people of all ages, and no one has been more encouraged than me.


Walking with a beautiful, trained, and socialized German Shepherd can attract attention. When walking my first GSD, I was reserved about taking time for people to pet him because of my pride. Almost immediately, God convicted me. He gave me the dog, but He did not just give me the dog for my own benefit. Like everything He entrusts to us, He wanted me to use him to bless others and bring Him glory.


So, I have been careful never to make an idol out of our dogs. I have made it a practice to remind people that my Best Friend is not a dog but the One Who created them.


I work from home and have cared for Grace from the moment of her birth. Her child-like affection and innocence would soften any heart. If you have known the unconditional love of a dog you will understand.


"Grace" (April 6, 2021)


When I left Grace at the ER and returned home, I walked her final path crying out her name in my heart, still wanting to save her. I have replayed it repeatedly in my mind thinking of how I could have prevented it. I could not stop saying to myself, "You saved other dogs, but you could not save your own!"

I could not stop saying to myself, "You saved other dogs, but you could not save your own!"

One of my friends took time to try to console me and reminded me we live in a broken world and, until Christ returns, the enemy, Satan, will wreak havoc. My friend is a hard-working business owner whose kind comments meant a lot.


Afterward, I remembered that while the enemy will cause untold heartache on this earth, Jesus is still Lord over all (Phil. 2:9-11). Through the story of Job, God revealed to us that the Evil One is unable to do anything without the permission of the One True Sovereign God.


We also know that even though man has suffered diseases, horrific catastrophes, pain, and grief, since the Fall, we can find hope because “all things will work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose” (Ro. 8:28).


The next verse in Romans chapter eight contains an equally sublime truth but is rarely quoted:

"For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” *(Ro 8:29).

God wants everyone to love Him, repent, and receive His forgiveness. Only then will we be able to say that all things are actively working together for good in our lives. And the centerpiece of the good God desires to bring about in our lives is to be like Lord Jesus Christ. That should be our greatest aspiration.


While we will never attain complete Christlikeness in this life, we may be sure that one-day Christ-followers will be free of our sin and the suffering of this world and able to stand faultless before His throne (Jude 24).


To be clear, God’s gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is a gift to all willing to turn to Him, surrender, and trust His mercy and grace for forgiveness. Any attempt of our own to pay for our sin or earn His forgiveness is utterly futile for salvation is possible only by the grace of God.


But once adopted into God’s family, we can expect our loving Heavenly Father to train, teach, and discipline us for our good and His glory. In the process, He often uses good and bad circumstances, as well as good and bad people, to bring change in our lives.[2]


Tragically, the myth that following Christ promises a trouble-free life has caused much confusion and disillusionment. All people suffer in this world and believers are not immune.[3} Oh, but thankfully there is purpose in pain for those who belong to Christ!


"Grace" and Southside Christian School friends (March 17, 2021) Her meaningful name was chosen by SCS Lower School Students.


So, feel free to call my love for Grace, puppy love. But it was real and reminded me of some simple truths:

  • We are all fallen people living in a broken world where no one, especially Christ-followers, are immune to suffering

  • We should hold on loosely to the things of this world, for they will all pass away

  • We should remember when grieving over the deaths of the "innocents" that The Son of God is the Lamb of God Who is impeccable, innocent, and sinless, yet He willingly became a sacrifice for us

  • We do not need to know the reasons God does what He does as His ways are higher than ours (Is. 55:8-9), He demonstrated His love on the cross (Ro. 5:8), and one day will wipe away all tears (Rev. 21:4)


While I do not understand why God allowed this to happen, I know Him well enough to be certain that He sees the big picture and that there is purpose in our pain. One day, sin and suffering will be no more, thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus.


So, even though I am weak, His GRACE is sufficient for me (2 Cor. 12:9).


Therefore, I can say with Job,


"The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;

may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21b).


Gratefully,







[1] See: Good Shepherd GSD Rescue

[2] Whitney, Donald S.. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (Kindle Locations 267-274). NavPress. Kindle Edition.

[3] (cf. Job 5:7; Ps. 34:19; Jn. 16:33; 2 Tim. 3:12; 2 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 4:8-12; 2 Cor. 6:3-10; 2 Cor. 12:9-10; 1 Tim. 5:23; 1 Pt. 5:9-10; Jas. 1:2-4; et. al).

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