Tuesday, July 8, 2014

House Comes With the Dog

Shortly after DJ and I arrived in Bolivia, we were given the responsibility of taking care of the aviation hangar guard dog. “House comes with the dog,” they said. Let me tell you what, though, I did not want to take care of this nearly full size nine month old black lab puppy. His behavior was out of control and he had this obnoxious whine that he used between the hours of 8 pm and 6 am until someone let him off the chain. Negro, as they named him, was supposed to be a guard dog for the hangar, but the truth was that nobody really wanted him. They were willing to feed him for the security benefit he could give, but I wondered how could he guard the airplanes if he was lose at night, running off chasing birds or playing with the neighbor dogs?

When DJ and I began to take care of Negro, it only took two nights to rid the whining - a bucket of water worked perfectly. Everything was hard at first – teaching Negro patience and manners when eating, playing, and walking. Discipline and consistency were in high demand. But, as the weeks went on, there was more time for love and less need for discipline.

Another missionary’s mom came to visit for a while and was always encouraging us to keep working with the dog. She would also remind us regularly, “You know he loves you!” So Negro became Negrito, ‘sit’ became a regularly obeyed command, and ‘stay’ was catching on quickly.

One day I heard Negro barking at something and went outside to find that the gate in the fence had broken and that our neighbor’s cows had come through. I let Negro off the leash, hoping he’d help me chase the cows back (since chasing cows used to be a pastime of his…). He did a great job and possibly had the best time of his life. He kept running back to me, jumping up high beside me before he returned to go after the next cow. He was so excited that he chased the cows much farther into the pasture than they needed to go! And I had fun too!

We took Negrito to the vet about two weeks ago to get a rabies shot and to get neutered: two things that we thought would better his life. Although no one knows why, our puppy had a bad reaction to either the anesthesia, the combination with the rabies vaccine, or to an unknown cause. During recovery from the surgery, Negro had a seizure and died a few hours later.

I’m sharing this not because it was the center of our mission work here; Rather, I’m sharing it because this experience taught me a lot about God. I have learned how to love more deeply; to love without reserve. All love comes from God, love that we receive and love that we give. I didn’t want to love Negro because his outward behaviors were hard to love, but as we began to show him love, he reciprocated it ten-fold. How could I not love the dog then? When someone loves you, it’s hard not to love them back.

God loves each of us so very much. He looks past our behaviors and sees what we could become if we loved Him back. People often offer superficial love, but God’s love is so much deeper and truer. Negro blossomed when, through the discipline, he saw consistent love. God offers us consistent love, all day, every day. Why not let Him love you and see how it changes your view of love?

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