by Dara Troutman, First Lutheran Member
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved dogs. We almost always had one around growing up—usually the outdoor variety. Owning a pet teaches children life lessons, such as responsibility and patience, among others. It’s been said dogs come into our lives to teach us about unconditional love. The kind that God has for us. And they leave us in order to teach us about compassion and loss. Having a dog will bless
you with some of the happiest days of your life and one of the worst days. Someone else said that first, but it’s true.
So it was for me in 2016 after losing my faithful golden retriever of 12 years. Then, scrolling through Facebook one day I saw a message from a local nonprofit inviting people to puppy raise a future service dog. I knew I wasn’t ready to “replace” Amber, but I thought maybe this could help mend my broken heart and be of value to someone else. Family members cautioned I would become too attached and that it would be difficult to say farewell when the time came.
And it was. I cried streams of mascara after dropping off Spencer at the State Penitentiary for his advanced training. But there were tears of joy later when I presented him to a teenager who will live more independently because of him. And Carson, my second service dog, who is now alerting the seizures of a 5-year old with epilepsy. I adopted a third puppy to raise after her hips did not qualify to be a service dog. Callie and I recently became a certified therapy pair and hope to bring joy to those in hospitals, nursing homes or other places. My fourth puppy will arrive around Thanksgiving.
As I think about the discipleship of dogs and of puppy raising, I turn to words from my friend, Tom Vick, who said, “My relationship with dogs mirrors my spiritual relationship with God. Once I was a puppy having to learn the ways of my Master. I didn’t always do things correctly and I was disciplined. I found joy in learning to obey. Most of all, I learned about love.”