Everyday Adventures: For the Love of Dogs

Five years ago my family blackmailed me into getting a dog. They threatened me with a rabbit. If I didn’t cave on the dog, we would have a long-eared carrot chomper stinking up a cage in my daughter’s bedroom.  I wasn’t about to let that happen.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see a cute bunny hopping around the yard as much as the next person. I just didn’t want one as a roommate. If we had a big house or a basement or a barn, it would be a different story, but we don’t. When it came to Peter Cottontail, our house just wasn’t big enough for the both of us.

But a dog? I love dogs. I love them so much I’ve had my heart broken more times than I care to remember when I’ve had to say goodbye. Honestly, I didn’t want to go through that again, especially with kids. Not only would I be an emotional wreck, but I’d have a house full of heartbreak on my hands.

Besides that fact, I knew who changed the litter box. I had a pretty good hunch that the same guy would end up doing most of the walking, pooper scooping and cleaning up messes left behind this furry tornado. As much fun as all of that sounded, I just didn’t think I could take on any more pet butler responsibilities.

But then my six-year-old, the baby of the family, really went to work on me, and I knew I couldn’t hold out for long. Owning a dog was the greatest dream of her life, and Bring Your Pet to School day was just around the corner. I just couldn’t see us hauling our fat, white cat into her classroom where he’d either scratch someone or pee in the corner. Probably both.

Then my wife played the trump card. The bunny. If we couldn’t handle a dog, we would just have to get a rabbit. The next thing I knew we were looking at a litter of puppies.

My daughter picked a tiny fuzzball named Panda, and I was determined not to get too attached. That lasted about five seconds. Now she sleeps between my feet every night.

All of my gloom-and-doom prophecies came true. She had accidents all over the house, raided the trash, barked all hours of the night and made the cat such a nervous wreck he started marking his territory, all of which meant more work for me.

But now, five years later, no one loves that dog more than I do. My family might argue that point, but Panda and I both know the truth. I’m the one who hung out with her in the backyard at 3:00 in the morning when she got into a bag of chocolate. I’m the one who rushed her to the vet when she got a fishhook in her paw. And someday, hopefully many, many years from now, I will probably be the one who will walk with her in the very end.

Yes, I know she’s just a dog, but over the past five years she’s taught me a lot about love. Love isn’t a feeling. It’s a commitment. It’s being willing to do the hard stuff, the messy stuff and even the painful stuff that comes from sacrificing for the good of someone else.

That’s what God did for us, not because we’re his pets but because we’re his creation. No one coerced him to love us. It was all his idea. Knowing the messes we would cause, knowing the trouble we would make and even knowing how much he would have to sacrifice for us, he chose to love us anyway.

Of course the love we have for our pets or even the greater love we demonstrate for family and friends doesn’t even come close to comparing to the love God has for us. But it does remind us that love costs something. It’s inconvenient. It’s messy. It’s painful.

Yet, for whatever reason, God thought you and I were worth it. Not because of anything we do for him, but because his love makes us worthy. •

Jason Byerly is a writer, pastor, husband and dad who loves the quirky surprises God sends his way every day. You can read more from Jason in his books Tales from the Leaf Pile and Holiday Road. You can catch up with Jason on his blog at www.jasonbyerly.com.

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