This past week was a difficult one for me and my family. Our dog’s health had been declining rapidly in recent weeks. He lost much of his vision and developed some odd behaviors. We visited the vet, got some insight and medication, but he wasn’t getting better. This past week, he’d begun having episodes of severe pain. On Wednesday night, Heather and I made the tough decision that we needed to put our dog down. It was not easy. We were meeting with our missional community friends. We’ve been togehter five years. They knew our dog, asked us about it, and prayed for us.
We have loved our dog very much. In a day filled with stories, walks, treats, and tears, our family gathered as we could. Together, we got Duncan in the van and went to the vet. (They were gracious, helpful, and kind.) We were all with him in a special room for his last moments – grateful and heartbroken. Afterward, my son Seth and I buried him. Our days with Duncan in our home are ended.
Our daughter Jordan summed it up well when she posted the news:
“Ten warm, wet-nosed, tail-wagging years later 💛 What a gift! He had many adventures and more friends than I do. He was a walking model of lightheartedness and a living lesson in contentment. He died as he lived: surrounded by family, with fingers buried in his fur, and with treats in ample supply. As I told him often, Duncan was never the noblest of beasts, nor the brightest, but he was still my favorite. His memory will linger even longer than the dog hair.”
He has been a missional partner for me. Seriously. Having that dog by my side helped me connect with people. But I recognized Duncan, like many dogs, had a gift with people, especially kids. A few years ago, I wrote about his bus stop ministry. It was not unusual to hear kids call out his name whenever we were out. They didn’t know me, but they knew the bus stop dog. We gave that up when I became bi-vocational, but he has still been a regular partner in ministry. In my neighborhood prayer walks, he slowed me down and helped me pay attention. Anytime we were outside, he would pull me over to say hi to people. With great ease, my dog broke down barriers and facilitated conversations. He had continued to be a missional dog. He loved his neighbors and expected me to do the same.
Like everything, God has lessons for us in this. He wasn’t a perfect dog. He made us worry, demanded attention, and got in trouble – especially when he was young. But overall he just loved his people. He forgave easily. He trusted recklessly. He had what I’ll call a community instinct. He wanted us all to be together. If a group of us went for a walk and we split up, he didn’t like it. It was as if he was saying, “No. Come back. It’s better if we stay together.” As Jordan said, he was a living lesson in contentment. And when we were together, he seemed most content.
Love, trust, forgiveness, and community. Jesus once preached, “Consider the birds of the air…” There were lessons for people in paying attention to God’s creatures. I think Jesus might well say have said to me, “Consider that dog in your home…”
Duncan was quite a gift. Like all God’s creatures, he was created to bring glory to God. And he did. I miss my “missional dog.”