Daisy came into our home as a puppy sixteen years ago. That first day, she seemed rather small, cuddly and quiet. Mell and I should have known better. Within minutes after arriving, cuddly and quiet disappeared forever amidst frantic jumping, running, chewing and puppy-biting. As for small? One look at her huge paws and you knew that wouldn’t last. Her breed was Springer Spaniel. I soon found out what “Springer” really meant. Daisy had legs like coiled springs sending her jumping in all directions.
To keep her occupied, we bought Daisy chew toys, lots and lots of chew toys. Alas, most were torn apart within minutes as she searched for the prize: the squeaker. Once she had the squeaker, the toy was abandoned while she continually chewed and squeaked, squeaked and chewed. Mell often used one of the discarded squeakers to soothe and calm Daisy’s nervous energy.
Daisy loved people. Unfortunately, she didn’t really understand subtlety and respecting other people’s space. Daisy often ran to someone at full speed, hurling all fifty-some pounds at anything that moved. Most would laugh it off, but others were so scared they never came near her again.
Our house was next to our church, so we took many walks around the building. Daisy loved to walk near the pre-school playground. The children would stop playing and run toward the chain-link fence to stick their hands through. Daisy would walk back and forth along the fence like a politician working the crowd, allowing each child an opportunity to rub her.
Empathy or sympathy was not one of Daisy’s better tendencies. On one of our walks, I slipped and fell on the ice. As I lay there in pain, Daisy assumed it was play-time and all fifty pounds of her jumped on my chest. When I screamed in pain, she became more excited and started bouncing up and down.
Where did the years go? When did Daisy transition to becoming an older dog?
The last few years were increasingly spent caring for Daisy as her energy declined and the spring-like legs gradually failed her. She still enjoyed our walks and eagerly looked to encounter anyone along the way that would give her attention. But over the last few months, we were unable to leave the house for more than a few hours at a time as Daisy required continuous care.
But the time came when Mell and I had to make the hardest decision of all. We said good-bye to our faithful companion and friend. The final moments were full of tears, but we were determined to be with her. As Daisy received the injection and closed her eyes for the final time, we were there to provide comfort.
Some of you may be saying, Daisy is a dog, a pet. It’s one thing to be emotional but isn’t this kind of love and attention a little much? Maybe. Maybe not. But I learned a lot over the last few months. God occasionally puts us in situations which bring little honor or praise. Caring for Daisy taught me the importance of serving others with humility and grace.
I’ve been studying the letter Peter wrote in the Bible. In chapter five, I found this: “Care for the flock that God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care but lead them by your own good example. – 1 Peter 5:2-3
There are many lessons in these 2 short verses:
• Care for the flock God entrusted to you – Daisy taught the value of caring for others.
• Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – I learned to appreciate and value my time with her.
• Serving God means not lording it over the people assigned to your care – No matter who.
• Lead by your own good example – Daisy didn’t need sermons, she needed our loving care.
Other scripture verses stressed the importance of caring for others:
• Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. – James 1:27
• Those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers. – 1 Timothy 5:8
• Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of God. – Matt 10:29
I discovered a quote by Erica Jong that sums up our experience with Daisy:
Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love and loyalty.
They depart to teach us about loss.
A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart.
If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.
Daisy taught what it means to serve with humility and grace. Our family will move on, but we are grateful for the gift of sixteen years to experience her love. Our hearts are truly bigger and for that I praise God for bringing Daisy into our lives.