The Grace Of God In The Love Of A Dog

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In loving memory, 2011-2020

 

It’s a silly thing the way we love our dogs. We blubber over them, talk to them (often in ridiculous voices), kiss them, let them kiss us, and even let them sleep in our beds.

We recently said goodbye to our nine-year-old Shih Tzu named Luke (a.k.a. Lukie or Lukie Pookie). He was a good dog.

Instead of a tail, God gave him a pom-pom that would set to cheering any time he was happy, excited, or eager.

That pom-pom was always wagging back and forth but never more so than when we returned from being away, even if we had only walked out to the mailbox and back. Our arrival was always greeted with exuberant fanfare, and I’m not going to lie, it made us feel pretty special.

Dogs have a way of doing that, you know…making you feel special.

Luke was a particularly good friend to me. If I was in the kitchen, he was in the kitchen. If I was in the family room, he was in the family room. If I was up late cleaning or working on a project, he was up late with me. If I was sick in bed all day, he was in bed all day right alongside me. I miss that.

A friend shared this quote as my family was grieving the loss of our Luke…

When you adopt a dog, you have a lot of very good days and one very bad day. Bruce Cameron

Indeed. The day we said goodbye to Luke was a very bad day, and the days that followed without him were hard, but the nine years of unconditional love, faithfulness, and joy were worth it. To love anything means to open one’s heart to loss and grief, but love is what makes life worth living. Though grief is hard, it is the risk inherent in love, and in some ways, even a proof of it. 

Luke was a bit of God’s grace to our family wrapped in fur, walking on four legs, and cheering us on with that ever-wagging pom-pom. He made our days, with their highs and lows, better. If you’ve ever loved a dog, you know what I mean. There’s a reason dogs are called man’s best friend.

My kids have grown up surrounded by the love of dogs, and I believe they are better people for it. They’ve learned about responsibility and commitment as well as compassion and have seen a picture of faithfulness and unconditional love.

They’ve also learned about loss and heartache and how to live brave enough to choose love again. For many of us, our dogs and pets were the first places we learned these lessons.

Our last two dogs have been Shih Tzus which are basically stuffed animals with heartbeats. Their special talent is in being living, breathing snuggles. Some dogs are more sporty, some are good hunters, and some dogs are even trained to be special helpers to humans who are sick, suffering, in need of help with particular abilities, or who are on the frontlines of rescuing, defending, and protecting the vulnerable. Whatever the natural wiring of a dog, or whether his greatest purpose is to give snuggles or rescue the vulnerable, a good dog is a good gift.

My kids have asked if we will see our dogs in heaven one day. Although I cannot answer this question with an actual promise, I can look to the character of God and say with confidence that it’s quite possible.

Dr. Randy Alcorn wrote a book called Heaven where he explores the topics and questions often raised concerning Heaven and what life there will be like. He also has a version of this book just for kids. In it, he considers whether we can hope to see our beloved pets again.

The most important passage on this subject may be Romans 8:18-22. (You can read it yourself.) It says that “all creation” suffers because of human sin and longs for the deliverance that will come with our resurrection. It’s like everything around us is yearning to be made free from suffering. But there is good news – nothing in creation will rot or die after God raises us from the dead. And our resurrection will apparently be the means by which all creation will be restored to its former glory, and go beyond it. 

I think there’s every reason to believe that “all creation” that longs for deliverance includes the animals. At the time when God’s people are raised from the dead, creation will experience what it longs for. It will be “set free from its bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21 ESV).

Romans 8 hints that some of the animals that lived and suffered and died on this old Earth will be the same ones restored to life in God’s earthly kingdom that’s to come. They suffered because of our sin, so their bodies will be freed when we receive our new bodies. They will then live in a world where they will never hurt each other or people or be hurt by anyone. 

So here’s the question: If any animals on this old Earth will experience life without suffering on the New Earth, won’t some of those animals probably be our pets?

It seems to me God could do one of three things on the New Earth: (1) create entirely new animals; (2) bring back to life animals that have suffered in our present world; (3) create some animals brand-new and bring back to life some old ones. Only God knows for sure what he plans to do. But Romans 8 leads me to believe that on the New Earth we will likely live again with some of the pets we have loved. ~ Heaven for kids, pages 138-139

I agree with Dr. Alcorn. There is very good reason to believe that some of the animals God fills the New Earth with will be those animals we loved on this old Earth. 

Although we greatly miss our Luke, I’m thankful our home isn’t void of the love and joy of a dog. We have our little Benji, also a Shih Tzu, who is as funny as he is snuggly and makes us laugh…a lot. We blubber over him, talk to him in ridiculous voices, kiss and hug him, and even let him sleep with us. It’s silly the way we love our dogs.

Then again, maybe it’s not so silly after all.

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole. ~ Roger Caras 

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