My earliest memories include my dog, "Ted." Although he was my Dad's dog I felt as though he were my own. While growing up, I enjoyed a variety of pets, but dogs were always my favorite.
My Dad loved animals and taught me to care for them. He had the ability to connect with them, and they loved him. I remember wanting them to love me as they loved him. As I grew, my love for animals, especially dogs, grew.
After graduating from college, I worked at a radio station. Almost every morning, a pack of dogs would come from the nearby junkyard through the station's parking lot. I called them, but they ignored me. That is, all but one.
One dog would look at me and linger behind as though it wanted to come to me. I began leaving a bowl of food as the dog was homeless and hungry. Eventually, it came to me. Soon it was a regular fixture at the station. We looked forward to seeing each other every morning.
As I was leaving work one afternoon, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the dog I had affectionately named "Yellow," staring at my car as I drove away. Then it began running after me. I knew it had no home and we belonged together, so I stopped the car. When he reached the car, he jumped through the open passenger side window into the seat, and off we went; my new best friend and me.
My love for dogs and the comfort and companionship they offer has been with me since childhood. Like the other good things God has given to us, it is possible to become more enamored with a pet to the degree that it becomes the center of our lives instead of God.
Recently I read about an animal lover by the name of Joe Taft. Taft is the founder of the Exotic Feline Rescue Center in Indiana. He loved the cats so much he even took a tiger cub home to care for it.
All was well until the day Taft suffered a heart attack. Thankfully he survived. But when he returned home to recover, he realized the cub had grown too strong for him to handle it.
The tiger was no longer a cute dependant but had become a dormant danger. What was Taft to do? What would you do?
Taft decided to build a steel cage around his couch--for himself.
"And Joe Taft spent the bulk of his recovery time caged in his living room, eyeing his things from behind bars while the tiger roamed freely through the rest of the house, pacing and roaring and keeping Joe a literal prisoner in his own home." 1
I understand the need to sacrifice, and I respect Taft and others like him for the way they care for God's creatures. Still, I would not want to be "tamed" by a tiger in my own home (or anywhere else, for that matter).
How easy things under our control can grow to control us. A blessing can become a burden when it becomes more important than the "Bless-or"--the One Who blesses us. It almost happened to me.
I have always been an animal lover for the encouragement they freely give. After my mom died, I bought a German Shepherd (GSD) puppy, and having it by my side was a source of comfort and pride. Our next GSD was "Boomer." Boomer was exceptional in every way. His limits were only my time and ability to train.
I invested in Boomer and he responded amazingly. He was quick to learn almost anything. For example, one evening, I was lying on our couch and watching TV. I decided I was too tired to go to bed and would fall asleep there. I couldn't find the TV remote and didn't want to break out of my sleepy state to search. So, I called Boomer. I told him, "Get the remote!"
I had not trained him to find and retrieve the remote, but he knew from previous training that I wanted him to bring something to me. He began to search the area, and when he sniffed the remote, I said, "That's it! Good boy, bring it here!" and he did.
Boomer was a hit wherever we went. I took him to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, churches, and many other places. He drew young and old alike to us. Patients and staff of our local hospital chose Boomer as their most popular therapy dog. Pictures of us appeared in The State newspaper.
Naturally, I was proud of him, but I realized people's attention focused on Boomer and me rather than the One Who Created us. I enjoyed receiving comments about what a great dog trainer I was and how beautiful Boomer was. Instead of using this gift from God for His glory and the good of others, I came dangerously close to using him to bring attention to me.
It was hard not to be in awe of Boomer, but I realized were it not for God's grace and provision, I would never have him or be able to do the things with him we did. So, I decided to get the attention off of me. Whenever someone would want to meet Boomer, I would let them know Who gave me such a great dog.
Since then, through our non-profit, "Life Worth Living," we have taken in many GSDs. We get them the veterinary care they need, help them to feel secure, socialize them, and sometimes train them before finding qualified families to adopt them. In every case that someone asks me to train a GSD or if am interviewing someone who wishes to adopt, I freely talk about the God Who loves us so much He created them for us and even sent His Son to die for us.
These wonderful creatures are fulfilling their ultimate purpose--bringing glory to God.
Even today, when others gather around one of our GSDs, I often ask, "Who's man's best friend?"
Naturally, most will answer, "A dog!"
"Yes," I agree, then add, "I love these shepherds, but my Best Friend is the One Who made them--Jesus!"
So, who's your best friend?
P.S. And who should be sitting beside me while I wrote this blog? "Sargent" or "Sarge" as I affectionately call him. Sarge's family has given me the privilege of training him and he decided to join me on the couch (I don't think that is part of his training! 😀).
*For more information on our German Shepherds, please visit our Facebook page: Good Shepherd GSD Rescue
Nappa, Mike., God in Slow Motion (Thomas Nelson: Kindle Edition, 2013), 190.