Pets Teach Us About God’s Love
This is for those of you who have gone through the trauma of putting a beloved pet “down.” You won’t understand if you haven’t experienced that kind of deep grief. But I wanted to share my daughter’s story about her family’s 13-year old yellow lab, Bella. This just happened recently, so our hearts are still tender, but I wanted to give you a glimpse of their family’s journey.
Bella was a rollicking, rambunctious puppy brought into their newlywed home…their first “child.” Like most dogs, Bella brought lots of joy and laughter into their lives. After 4 years of being an only “child,” Kristen and Chris welcomed real live human baby, Charlie, into their family, and Bella graciously accepted her inevitable demotion, unconditionally loving her sibling nonetheless. Just grateful to be a dog in the King family.
As two more babies arrived on the scene, life in Bella’s family grew to controlled chaos. Bella knew her place as a beloved family member but understood her role: playing on demand and protecting her charges. Bella seemed to smile all the time and certainly didn’t mind playing second fiddle to her children. After all, Bella had her own stocking at Christmas, chew toys galore, and plenty of bones and treats. Life was good for Bella, and she thrived.
But dog years fly by and soon Bella was an old lady. And a lovely, seasoned, wise old dog she was. It became obvious that Bella was at life’s end when she stopped eating and drinking but courageously continued to limp along with legs collapsing behind her, but her spirit wanting to continue. She would lie at her master’s feet, lick their hands, and allow each of them to love her and say a tearful, heartfelt good-bye…or two or three or a hundred.
Bella’s dog sitter, Claire, was deeply connected to Bella and came to love on her for her last earth day. Seeing Claire’s car, Bella painfully hobbled to the open door and let us know that she wanted to get in. Wisely, Claire gently lifted Bella into the back seat. Precious Claire smothered Bella with kisses, hugs and genuine words of affirmation and praise. Bella soaked it all in as if being lavishly exalted as queen for the day. Well deserved. Claire’s final gift to Bella was to take her away for a burial worthy of a great dog in her own backyard.
When the vet drove up to Bella’s home to administer her mercy shot, Chris and Kristen sat in their yard on a blanket with their dog. They cried, hugged, petted and loved on Bella, and fondly remembered their married seasons of life…and it all began with Bella.
Yesterday I asked Kristen to describe Bella in one word. She couldn’t. But she could say that Bella was so like the fruits of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…I had to wonder. Is a dog the greatest earthly example of God’s unconditional love? Could it really be that the loyal, faithful nature of a dog is like God’s nature? The love He shows us even when we get angry, turn our back on Him? So like Bella. So like your dog.
Thank you, God, for giving us animals to know and love and to see a true picture of Your love for us. Unconditional. True. Agape love. Help us remember and to love like You.
by Barbara Beck