Just a couple of days ago, late in the evening on Labor Day, our family said goodbye to our dog Buddy. We adopted him from the local animal shelter just days before they had to close it. That was 9 years ago. During those 9 years we had a lot of adventures with Buddy. While there were days when he greatly annoyed us, we all grew to care about him, especially my oldest daughter Alexis. Buddy was her best friend.
Yesterday, late in the afternoon, we buried him. I asked everyone in the family to share a memory they had about him. Everyone did, including myself. You might think that’s strange but you see, I believe animals are great teachers. Also, when we read the Bible, we are often encouraged to learn about God and life from the animals. Remember Proverbs 6:6? Or remember Matthew 6:26-27? Just to name a couple. As I have personally reflected on his time with us, here are some things that Buddy has taught me and I hope I never forget.
- Live life to the hilt – Buddy was not, by any means, a lazy dog. He lived life to the uttermost. In fact, when we picked him out at the animal shelter he was with several other puppies. The rest of the puppies were laying there but Buddy was jumping and scratching and doing his best to get out of his pen. That habit never broke. We gave up trying to keep him in a pen or crate. Every time we came home, he had somehow broken out and was at the door to greet us. This teaches me much about my Christian life. A verse I meditate on frequently is Colossians 1:28-29, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.” As Christians, we are to live to the hilt for the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be living sacrifices who are solely and wholly committed to Him.
- Enjoy people – There are two kind of people in the world: here I am or there you are. A “here I am” person waits for others to come to them but a “there you are” person seeks other people out. Buddy was a “there you are” dog. He loved people. Although a large dog, he always wanted to be a lap dog. He wanted to lick your face. He wanted to play with you. No matter where we went as a family, he would sit near us or with us or on top of us. When friends visited, he (often to their annoyance) would smother them with attention. This reminds me of Jesus who was a master of people-work. He loved and cared for and enjoyed people. He sought people out and pointed them to salvation in Him.
- Guard what’s important – As much as Buddy loved people he also was a great guard dog. When unfamiliar people came to the door he barked and growled ferociously – especially at the UPS delivery guy. Valerie and I enjoy going on walks together. Before we leave, Valerie would often say to Buddy, “Guard the kiddos.” And he did. Sure, sometimes his barking would drive you crazy but he was defending us and there was a comfort to knowing when we were walking that they would have to get through Buddy first. This causes me to think of the duty of Christians and the church at large to defend the truth of the Bible. It also brings to my attention of how God defends and guards his people.
- Always watching – You could count on it. Before we even pulled into our driveway, there was Buddy’s head and beady eyes poking up over the window ledge. When one of us would go away, such as Lexi to school or Valerie to get groceries, Buddy would sit at the window and watch. Are we not called as Christians to watch and pray for the Lord’s return? Are we not also called to watch out for false teaching and to watch out lest we waste our days and time?
- Death is inevitable – Buddy was a mixed breed of Boxer and Labrador. The veterinarian told me Monday night that the longest she had seen a Boxer live was to the age of 13. The average lifespan of Boxers I am told is 10-12 so Buddy was at the end. He was not long for this world. But even in his death he is teaching us. The Bible teaches that death entered this world because of sin and so Buddy dying painfully but importantly reminded my young family that death is real. It is their first real experience of loss. I am a pastor so my kids have been to more than their fair share of funerals and seen people lying in caskets but it didn’t phase them because they didn’t know them. But Buddy’s death got their attention and God is teaching us that we live in a sin cursed world that groans for its Creator (Romans 8:19-24). Buddy is teaching us to look to Christ who conquered sin and death and Satan.
With all of that I can say, “Thank you Lord that you are sovereign over all and can use anything to teach us and grow us in You. Thank you for giving to us our faithful four-legged companion (who Valerie called “Buddy James Manwarren” when he would get in trouble and it just kind of stuck). He has taught myself and my family some important lessons. Help us to remember and keep learning. All glory to Your name.”