This is a story for people who love pets. It begins with the loss of our family cat, Flower. She had grown up with our children and after fourteen years, God reclaimed her love. In the emptiness that followed, we soon found ourselves with a standard poodle puppy named Shasta. For those not familiar with the standard poodle breed, they are one of the most intelligent, known to have an intellect level approaching a five-year-old child. They are filled with energy, love, very emotional and capable of passing on wisdom. Here goes my story.
Shasta had high energy and a strong will. Capable of jumping my six-foot fence, she began her life eager to run free, play with the children of the neighborhood and quickly fill the void in our hearts. Shasta bonded to us so quickly that within a few short years, she became our third child. My family and I were not prepared for how quickly Shasta left us. On a short family vacation, we had placed her in a kennel where she contracted a virus. An incompetent veterinarian gave Shasta a sedative during an examination and walked away. Her loving heart stopped and we were a family grieving again. I was angry with God for the futility and pain of finding and loosing Shasta in two years and for no apparent reason other than someone’s incompetence.
Our house had been empty only several days when we just could not stand it anymore. We called Shasta’s breeder to inquire about another poodle. The breeder responded that Shasta’s mother could no longer have puppies but she had one puppy left from the last litter. This puppy was not show quality and the breeder was having difficulty finding a home. Sight unseen, we made arrangements to pick up a new puppy. Jasmine was not the typical breeder stock. She had been bottle feed from birth and raised by the children of the breeder. We brought Jasmine home and opened what I must reflect upon was the most enjoyable chapter of my life with pets. As Jasmine’s life unfolded, I began to understand that in every experience God provides us the opportunity to learn. All we need to do is open our eyes.
- One of the first things I noticed with Jasmine was that I often found myself drawing parallels between my relationship with her and my relationship with God. Sort of a master and servant view of life. I could see God as the master, caring for me as I was caring for Jasmine. Here are just few of the wonderful observations passed on to me.
- Jasmine was everyone’s best friend. She had an uncanny instinct of knowing how to greet you and when you needed a friend. Her eyes were beautiful and penetrating. For each member of our family, Jasmine learned who we were and what we needed. She took her role as family pet seriously and served with high honors. – God wants us to search out the needs of each person he puts in our lives.
- Most pets quickly become protective over their food, toys, family and home. Jasmine shared everything in her life with my mother’s two cats, my daughter’s chocolate Labrador retriever, with any child that would spend time with her, with any adult who would extend a friendly hand. Everything Jasmine could lay claim to she did not. – I know this is the very character that God would like to see in me.
- Jasmine was not perfect. Her puppy years were filled with expensive chew toys like woodwork and my wife’s dress shoes. Yet our family continued to love her after appropriate discipline of course. – God provides discipline, training and most importantly, unconditional love to each of us.
- No matter how many times I would reassure her that I would be back, I would see her sadly watching me through the front window as I pulled away. Her head would droop, and she would turn away slowly. My wife tells me that every day at five o’clock, Jasmine would walk to the laundry room and take up her watch by the door that led into the garage – the door I always used to enter the house. There she would stand with her nose pressed against door jam, waiting for me to return. She would literally bounce up and down when she heard the garage door open. Is that not what our heavenly Father wants us to do? Does He not want us to long for His return and be made joyous by His return?
- Jasmine spent a lifetime in pursuit of her folly. She chased squirrels with such focus that it brought her abruptly into fences, doors, trees, shrubbery and, on more than one occasion, the pool. We tolerated her futile efforts with salves and dry towels. – Is this not the very character of our God?
- There was never a day in her life that she worried whether or not we would feed her, pet her, or protect her from the elements. In fact, her trust was so complete she never took food that was not offered. When our grandson was a toddler, he would wander around with a fist full of cheese – her favorite snack. She would follow him and wait for him to walk away from it, but she never took it from his grasp. She never demanded attention, but was always ready to accept it. She was always ready for adventure and would go anywhere as long as we were with her. Jasmine had turned her life over to us as we are to turn ours to God.
Jasmine lived almost 15 years. She had several serious illnesses but always showed strength and resilience, fighting back. Perhaps this last quality was the most meaningful lesson of all. Her trust was unwavering that we would always do what was right for her. She trusted us completely to know that the arthritis pain and the effort to go on had become too great. The look of trust never left her eyes even as we took her on her last car ride to the veterinarian’s office and held her until she gently slipped away. We can’t help but know this IS the unwavering trust we must strive for with God. The lesson she gave us is that He knows us better than we know ourselves. What He chooses to provide is sufficient for our needs and always exactly what we need. As long as He is with us we can live joyfully and trustingly this adventure called life – even as He brings us to the end of our days.