During our marriage, Louise and I have embraced and welcomed into our lives at least 14 purebred Labrador retriever dogs.  We enjoyed the fun and work of having seven litters and placing the pups into loving homes.  Without a doubt the best dog we ever had was our Penny.  Penny came to us through our good friend, Taff Vidales, who had a wonderful breeding yellow Lab named Shasta.  This was almost 15 years ago.

Penny was amazingly excellent in the field flushing pheasant from tight cover or comforting many people in our home Bible study group as we sat in a circle sharing our fears, tears, and concerns.  She was supportive and protective of children, especially when she attended events at our Special Kids Day Programs for the Disabled.  She was a devoted and loyal dog who never met a person or another dog she didn’t immediately love.

This past week we had to put old Penny down.  We bring our dogs into our lives and homes, and cherish and love them. We spend hours talking to them, making them the non-judgmental repository of all our secret hopes and fears. We trust them implicitly and they never let us down. What more could we possibly want?

More time with them is the first thing that springs to mind. Our dogs have much shorter life spans than we do, so almost everyone has had to say good-bye to a beloved dog at some point in their lives. While it’s not easy to say good-bye, it is inevitable.  And so is the grief that follows.

When God created Labs he went the extra mile to put a willing and loving spirit in them to please their masters.  The devotion they show to obeying our commands and to serve our needs for companionship and love are uniquely different than most other breeds of dogs.

One of the stories that best reminds me of how Penny lived to please her master occurred on a pheasant hunt with a few friends and their bird dogs.  Penny was the youngest dog in the group, but she pointed out and retrieved more birds than any other dog.  At the end of the hunt all of us guys gathered in a circle on the lawn to eat our lunch.  All the other dogs were kenneled in the trucks except for Penny.   She laid beside me and was checking out the scene.

I could see that Penny was intently looking at the pile of birds stacked up about 30’ from our circle.  Without any command or reference to the birds she quietly got up and one-by-one went to the pile of birds and brought all the pheasants to my side and then laid back down.

As we read God’s word His desire is that, like Penny, we would so love Him that our devotion and obedience would “be pleasing” in every manner.  The Hebrew word for devotion is rasa.  It means being affectionate, loving, kind-hearted, and delighting others with our service.

The Apostle Paul summed it up with this note to the Corinthians, “And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.”  1 Corth.7:35.  As tired as Penny was from her first hunting trip she was not “distracted” from doing her duty of serving her master (me).  Her act of kindness was appreciated by all of us and endeared her to the men as a “selfless dog” who is committed to pleasing her master.

May we follow her example of serving our Lord and one another with a selfless love.  May we be pleasing and devoted to our Master.

Personal Application:

What does Ephesians 4:32 tell us about love and kindness? “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

In Luke 6:35-36 we read the following: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.  Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” How can we best adopt this into our daily living?

Jim Grassi, D. Min.