I have a confession to make: I don’t like dogs.
As a kid I loved the TV show Lassie and I read lots of library books about dogs (I still remember loving “Irish Red”), but I never had one and after living in Cochabamba for 21 years where there are more dogs than people — vicious watchdogs and gangs of street dogs, everyone had a dog-bite story — naturally I became averse.
But for one decade, I had a dog.
Her name was Penny.
This is her story.
My daughters wanted a dog.
I didn’t want the work of a dog, but I was thinking about it because I wanted to be a good mom.
So one November, some friends brought a puppy up to camp, a puppy they wanted to sell.
Like all puppies, she was precious, so Jake and I told them we would take her when she was ready to leave her mother.
That supposed-to-be cocker spaniel was the best Christmas present I ever gave.
I remember holding her in my lap while she slept, and feeling my heart swell with love.
Then there was the discussion of what to name her.
It took some time to get all six of us to agree.
One name was mostly unanimous: Penny.
That name suited our puppy, but I worried a bit because I had a dear friend named Penny.
Would her feelings be hurt, thinking we named a dog after her?
Actually my friend was amused to share her name with our little sweet doggie.
So Penny dog became a part of our family, and she loved us like dogs do, always happy to see us, forgiving us our failures, and grateful for any little attention we would give her.
She followed me around the house, so I nicknamed her Goodnessandmercy, from Ps 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
Then came the time when we had to give Penny dog away.
We were leaving Bolivia and couldn’t take her with us.
I found her a family who lived on a farm-like place and when I took her there and we walked around, she stayed close by my side, her little face upturned, eyes fixed on me, looking worried and sad.
That was a hard day.
This week I’ve been thinking much about heaven.
Not because of our little dog (though I think she is there.) but because of Penny, who died some years back, and because of our mutual friend M. in the dark valley of death (Psalm 23:4), close to heaven.
When I talked with M. about heaven, that soon she will see her mother, her cousin, our friend Penny, she nodded and smiled hearing each name, but then her weak voice remonstrated me with tears, saying forcefully, “Sarah, I am going to see Jesus. He’s forgiven all my sins!”
Psalm 23 is often read at funerals, but I want to recall its truths every day.
Jesus is my Good Shepherd.
He gives me everything I need: rest, peace, strength, guidance.
I can go through the dark valley of death without fear, because His presence will protect and comfort me.
He is preparing a place for me, where He will welcome me forever.
Until then, His goodness and mercy pursue me and my cup overflows with blessings, yes, so many blessings, friends like Penny and M.
And sweet little dogs.
Here’s a random thought, maybe it’s stupid, but if I ever have another dog, I could name her M.
Maybe I like dogs after all.
Little ones like Penny that remind me of friends and Jesus.