• Cathy B. Parker

Joy Restored Through A Puppy

Baxley The Parker's New Family Dog

When my husband Carl said he was going to get himself a dog for Christmas, I quickly responded, “Are you crazy? We are not getting another puppy!” He then explained that it did not have to be a puppy; an older dog would be just fine. Any thought of taking on a pet was more than I wanted to think about. I knew from experience that most of the pet care would fall on me, but it wasn’t just the responsibility that I was hesitant to take on. It had been only a year since we had to say goodbye to our 13-year-old black lab, Coley. I just wasn’t sure I was ready to open my heart and home again to make room for a four-legged family member.

When I received a call from our daughter Cara informing me that she and my son Collin were on their way to look at a puppy that they wanted to get for their dad, I knew that I wasn’t going to win this “dog” idea. I have to admit that my heart had already softened to the idea. Could this be a good decision for us, and would I be willing to make the sacrifices necessary to raise a puppy?

I can answer that question for you, but I have to stop to take the laptop charger cord out of our puppy’s mouth. Yes, we have a new puppy named Baxley.

Honestly, I think Carl and I will be so much better at raising a puppy at this stage in our lives than we were when all our kids were young and at home. You know how people enjoy their grandchildren so much more? It’s like they get a chance to make up for all the things they wish they would have done with their children. Author Dr. Kim Bloomer’s book Animals Taught Me That has many stories to which I can relate. We learned so much from our 13-year-old lab Coley which will benefit Baxley as she grows from a playful puppy to a mature dog.

I would like to share with you one of the many lessons Coley taught us. Carl had taken a coaching and teaching job at a high school in Baxley, Georgia, so we started looking to relocate to the area. Coley had always adjusted well with our many family moves and quickly became the favorite neighborhood dog wherever we resided. We always had a fenced yard for her to run and play. We would find a home in a rural area with a large open yard. We were greeted by several dogs in the area. It looked like our new home was the neighborhood hangout for the area dogs. That was fine with me and Carl because we had recently become empty nesters and having the company made us not miss our kids so much.

Carl and I discussed putting a fence in to protect Coley but decided that she would be so unhappy being locked up when all the other dogs in the neighborhood were able to run loose.

Coley Parker The Parker's forever family dog

We had been there several months, and everything seemed to be going well until one morning when we couldn’t find Coley. We called for her to come and eat her food, but she didn’t come. Carl and I rode around the dirt road near our home; there was no sign of her. We went a little further out to the highway and saw something black near the side of the road. It was our precious Coley.

I dreaded calling each of our children, but I made the calls. We were all devastated that we had lost our precious pet. Carl and I were also burdened with guilt that we had not fenced our yard.

Carl and I continued our morning walks without Coley, but all the other dogs in the neighborhood would still follow us. They were not in fenced yards; they were able to roam around without borders. We started to resent the fact that our neighbors still had their dogs when we had lost ours. We resented having our neighbors’ dogs hanging out at our house.

We knew that God wanted us to learn something from this pain we were experiencing so we started praying and asking God what he wanted to teach us.

This is what we learned.

We had to repent and ask God to forgive us for not being responsible with the animal He had given us. We had compromised. We knew that we needed a fence, but because none of our neighbors had fences, we did not use good judgment.

Doing the right thing takes effort, and many times is costly. In this case, a fence for our large yard wasn’t cheap, but the price we paid for not being obedient costs us so much more. We started asking God to show us other areas of our lives in which we had compromised so we could make it right.

We had to stop resenting our neighbors and their dogs. We were called to love them.

After we repented, God began to change our hearts towards our neighbors and their dogs. One evening I came home, and my headlights were shining on two big dogs sitting at my front door. I began to pray, “Father, I thank You that my home is protected by my neighbor’s big dogs.”

Now, as I continue to take things out of our new puppy’s mouth, I wonder about all the things she will teach us. I’m so thankful that we serve a God who restores and brings joy to us through his magnificent creation of a playful puppy.

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