Our house seems emptier this week, and our family is grieving. We will miss hearing him walk into our bedroom, follow us around the house, or run around the pool while we swim. We will no longer catch him trying to sneak out the front door for a roaming session around the neighborhood. We will miss looking into his loving, almost human like eyes as we pet and love on him.
Shep came into our lives just over 12 years ago. We had said we would not get a dog, but Amber asked me one year if I wanted to blow the kids’ minds for Christmas. She had me; I was in. Then she said, “Let’s get them a dog.” I swallowed hard and agreed. She knew of a litter of Australian Shepherd puppies in Camden County. A friend, a local dog whisperer named Denise, took Amber and helped us pick out the most adorable little puppy who became a true member of the family. We gave him the incredibly creative name “Shepherd,” affectionately known as Shep.
Shep was a special dog. He was sweet, kind and incredibly loyal. He was more afraid than brave, but was always there when you needed him. Shep had this amazing sensitivity about him and could sense when you were sad or down. He would come up and put his paw on your lap and then nuzzle his face close to your face as if to offer his care and comfort.
For our middle son Jonathan, he became his best friend. Shep was his shelter during the ups and downs of teenage years. Shep would sleep with the kids, or lay next to our bed. He was like velcro, always stuck to one of us wherever we were in the house. He was always happy to see us when we came home, tail wagging and looking as if he were smiling. He barked when hungry, and woofed when he needed to go outside for a potty break. While he weighed 50+ pounds, he often crawled in our laps like he was a just a little “lap dog.” We often guessed what he was thinking, sometimes mimicking his voice out loud as we laughed. We loved Shep, and Shep loved us back.
This past Tuesday morning, it was time to let Shep go. Tumors were taking over his body and leading to many complications. It was quick and seemed surreal, but we knew it was right. We could not watch him suffer any longer right before our eyes. I held his face and, kissed his nose, and said goodbye. I had not cried that hard in quite some time. We felt as if a huge part of our family, and our children’s childhoods were passing before our eyes, slipping from our grip. There is nothing quite like a good ole dog.
It reminds me of Cat and Dog Theology. With my apologies to “cat lovers,” I pass on this wisdom I once learned: “Dogs have masters – cats have staff.” Cats may call you master but tend to live self-centered lives, as if you are there to take care of them. On the other hand, dogs are eager to see and please their master.
A dog may look at you and think, “You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me, you love me – You must be God!” On the other hand, a cat thinks, “You feed me, you pet me, you shelter me and love me – I MUST BE GOD!”
The point is, we must be careful not to adopt a cat theology in our relationship with God. We must not call God our Master, but treat him like he is staff. We can mistake God’s gracious attention and benevolence to think we are awesome and that God is all about us.
Rather, we should see God’s goodness and turn to lift up and exalt the nature of our Master Jesus Christ. God loves us in an amazing way, but this says more about Him than it does about us. We can mistake God’s attention and affection to make ourselves the center of the universe.
In simple words, we are not to preen like cats thinking God is lucky to have us and be there for us. No, we are the tail wagging dogs who should be thrilled to have such a kind master. We should want to be with him, love him, and receive his love and attention. And we should want the world to know that He is the best Master ever. I am so grateful to my Lord and Master Jesus Christ. RIP Shep! And that’s the Word.
The Rev. David Yarborough is pastor of
St. Simons Community Church. Contact him at email@example.com or 912-634-2960.