Monday, December 2, 2013

They Say Dogs Don't Go To Heaven; But Mine Did.

In September, of 2006, my dad called and told me about a man in his church in Kansas that had some chocolate Lab puppies available if I was interested.  I certainly was interested!  I immediately reserved me a puppy and in just a few weeks was holding in my arms the cutest little brown lab you had ever laid your eyes on.

Seeing how he was a chocolate lab, I thought of the perfect name for him-Snickers!  Snickers was a little puppy, but had huge paws.  It was obvious to see that Snickers would grow up to be a pretty big dog, and that he certainly did.

Our children immediately also fell in love with Snickers.  They enjoyed playing with him, giving him snacks, and watching him play with whatever toy he could get his teeth around.  Snickers pretty much lived inside and easily became just part of the family.  At Christmas time, we all would hang our stockings, and was sure to hang Snicker's as well.  He had his own hat, ornament, and loved candy canes.   Snicker's was always sure to find a delicious bone every Christmas morning in his stocking.  He would take it and want to go outside with it and enjoy it all alone (I think he was afraid we would take it from him).

 Snickers loved playing at the dog park in our town.  He would look so much forward to running in the field and jumping in the pond and trying to catch the bull frogs.  I am not sure what he would have done if he would have caught one.

Snickers grew to be quite a large dog.  At his last last vet appointment, he weighed in at 115 lbs.  Snickers was not overweight, just a very strong dog.  Our neighbor called him "roids" because he accused him of being on steroids.  Once our son was walking Snickers and Snickers saw a cat.  He chased that cat four doors down, dragging our 100 lb. son behind him on the leash.

Snickers loved so much sitting outside and watching the birds.  He never chased them, just sat there in the sun watching the day go by.  Each night, after the kids went to bed, Snickers would come inside and eat and sit with me.  Before we got our new couch, Snickers would sit on the couch with me.  In the winter, I loved it so much as he was  the greatest electric blanket a guy could ever have.

We both enjoyed a late night snack, except my how Snicker's would drool.  It was actually disturbing what a drooler he was.  My wife wasn't real fond of this part of Snickers.  Any time she would sit and eat a snack at night, there he would be.  He never begged or whined, just sat there watching and hoping she would give in.  He may have gotten more if he could have controlled that drooling of his.  She was rather disgusted at it and many times excused him to his house.

Snickers "house" was the garage.  We had divided our garage into two sections with a wall.  The first part was a family room, and the second part was Snicker's house.  It had some totes, our freezer, some clothes, and his big comfy pillow he slept on.  He actually looked forward to going there at nights.  When he was real tired, he would beg to go and get excited when you got up to take him.  He probably was so excited though because every night I gave him an extra treat as he went to his house.  My how this dog loved cheese and bacon strips.

Snickers enjoyed life at our house.  He was, about as much as a Burke as you can be.  He loved family, he loved to eat, he loved being around people, he adored children, he loved being loved.  Each night, after he ate dinner, he would (like a cat) just go back in forth in front of you.  He expected you to raise your legs so he could run under them scratching his back.  He would do this all night if you let him.  He was a morning dog.  As you would approach his door to let him in in the morning, you could always hear that "T-rex" like tail beating the walls inside.  He was always happy!  That tail would always wag, and if it hit you, you knew it.  He grew up and was getting older, but I think he always thought he was a kid.  He just loved being around you.

Snickers also was a perfect Burke because he like making people happy and would take any aggravation you sent his way.  Our children when they were younger would grab his ears, tail, and try to ride him.  He would just sit there looking at me with a "you can stop them now" look on his face, but not one time in 6+ years did Snickers ever growl, snap, or even look angry at anyone.  He could take a lot and just keep loving.

As a pastor, there are some days when there are a lot of burdens on you.  The last 6 years have seen many burdens shared by me with this dog.  He was my friend.  Every time I needed to talk, he would sit and listen.  It is as if he knew I needed an ear and would lay his head down and just listen.  I always joked with him after these "sessions" telling him, "Can't you tell me you understand how 'ruff' it is?"  He never did, just listened and when I was done, would get up and wag that ginormous tail of his, as if to say, "It's over, lets go on."

Snickers even enjoyed watching a good t.v. show as long as you were petting him all the while.   In a nut shell, he was the perfect dog for me.  He was my friend and companion.

The day after Thanksgiving, 2013, something was wrong with my dog.  I went to let him out that Friday morning, and no tail was beating the wall.  I opened the door and he slowly got up and made his way to the door.  I had put some left over Thanksgiving meat in his bowl, but he just walked right by and headed towards the back door.  His tail weighed down, his eyes were heavy, and his strength weak.  I ask him what was wrong and his tail wagged a bit, but nothing like it should.  I took him outside and let him soak in a little sun, but something was wrong.  He just lied there.  I went into his house to get his water bowl and there was vomit on the ground.  My dog was sick.  I hoped within myself that he ate something bad and a day outside in the sun would make things better.  We went on over to my parents house and I came back home around 5 p.m. to check on him.  He was no better, maybe even worse.  I decided to take him to the vet hospital.  Maybe he had a virus or something a little medication could take care.  He slowly got into the car and sat staring out the back window as I drove.  He usually on car rides would pant and go from window to window, but this time it was different.

When we arrived at the vet hospital, the good doctors took great care of Snickers.  They took his vitals and came and shared with me that they needed to take some x-rays.  The x-rays showed a bowel obstruction and it was bad.  Snickers needed surgery.  He was very sick.  The problem was, I didn't have the money required to have the surgery.  I tried to think of ways to get the money, but it just wasn't there.  I told the doctor, I was going to have to put Snickers down.  The kind doctor understood and said to wait a minute and I could spend a last few moments with Snickers.  As I waited for them to bring Snickers to me, I couldn't believe this was happening.  It all happened so quickly, it was like a bad dream.  Then there was a knock at the door, and a young man brought Snickers in and shut the door.  Snickers came up to me with his tail wagging best he could.  I held his head in my hands and looked him right in the eyes.  I thanked him for being the best dog in the world.  I thanked him for always being so kind and gentle with my children.  I thanked him for the times he barked to let us know people were around the house.  I thanked him for listening to me all those times I needed him too.  I told him he was the greatest dog I had ever met, kissed his nose, and walked out of the room.  As much as I tried to "be a man," I couldn't help but cry.  I cried because I knew that about 10 miles away from me were my children and wife crying, I cried because I knew Snickers didn't understand what was happening, and I cried for myself because I was hurting.  

I signed the papers and was told that they would come and get me when the procedure was over.  They said it would take about 20 minutes.  Forty-five minutes passed and finally they asked to see me in a room.  I waited for the doctor to come in.  The room was so still and silent. My mind was flooded with memories of my dog.  I heard a knock at the door and the good doctor came in.  She had an awkward look on her face.  She said, "This is an awkward conversation in some ways.  I have an option to give you.  As we prepared Snickers for the procedure, he is just such a good dog, he won all of our hearts.  Another doctor here at the Care Center recently had her chocolate lab pass away.  She has been heart broken, and we thought of her while preparing Snickers.  I took the liberty to call her and let her know about Snickers.  She has offered to perform the surgery and pay for all medical expenses; but you would have to sign over ownership to her.  If he makes it through the surgery, she will take him home and care for him and give him all that he needs."

What a roller coaster of emotions I went through.  I stood there stunned.  I wanted to take Snickers home!  But, I couldn't, and I definitely wanted Snickers to live.  I agreed and signed over the papers.  I got in my car and headed home.  I had to explain all of this to my children. What a night it had been.  I put my hand in my coat pocket and felt his big blue collar and leash.  It was a hard night.

When I got home, all I wanted to do was see Snickers waiting for me there in the living room; but he wouldn't be.  I walked in and my wife met me with a hug and kiss on the cheek.  The children sat silent not sure what to say.  I sat down and my four year old daughter walked over to me.  She was trying to be strong for her daddy.  She said, "Snickers is in Heaven daddy," but she was at her end being strong.  She laid her head on my chest and wept.  That broke the dam of tears everyone was trying to hold.  After a good cry session, I shared the story with everyone what had happened.  We then bowed our heads and thanked God for the years He gave us with Snickers.  We thanked God that He had made a way for Snickers to have his surgery.  We thanked God for being so kind.  The kids went off to bed and I sat there thinking about what I had just prayed.  God truly had been amazing in this all.  The vet we were taking Snickers too wasn't able to see us and sent us to the Care Center.  It just so happened that at that one vet hospital, a doctor had just recently lost her chocolate lab.  I sat and thought, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." (Ps. 37:23).  The Lord had directed my steps that night.  Did the Lord really care about all of this?  Of course He did!  He cares about me.  If He knows when a hair falls from my head, He definitely knew how bad I was hurting and the loss I was going through!  If He cares about a worthless sparrow that falls to the ground (Luke 12:6), He cares about a chocolate lab that has protected, played, and pleased this home of ours.  God had worked all of this out.  But, why?

Maybe this doctor needed Snickers more than we did.  There are a lot of possibilities.  I laid my head on my pillow that night and thought on this more.  You know, Snickers was a good dog-the best in my opinion; but Snickers was going to die.  There was nothing I could do about it, the price was too great.   But, there was one person who could do something.  That doctor was able to not only pay the price, but to do the work required.  Snicker's life would be saved.  But now Snickers would go to live with this good doctor. Well, of course Snickers would.  The good doctor had paid the price and made the sacrifice, Snickers should not only be hers reasonably, but also willingly.  Then my mind thought on this, what better home could a dog have?  Snickers was pampered with us at our house, but he hasn't seen anything yet.  Those words came back to me: "she will take him home and care for him and give him all that he needs."  Snickers was going to dog Heaven.  It still hurts, but it is comforting to know where Snickers is at.

Obviously, what a picture this is of what our Lord has done for us.  We can be a good person-the best person, but still we are going to die (Rom. 6:23) and deserve the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15).  Our good works cannot save us (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).  But there is One who can save us!  This Great Physician is Jesus.  Not only could He do the work, but He made the sacrifice.  He came to this earth and took our place.  He went to the cross and died for our sins (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8).  He took all of our sins and placed them upon Himself (2 Cor. 5:21).  He was buried, but three days later rose again! All we must do is see ourselves as the sinners we are, see Jesus as the only way we can be saved, and believe on Him! (Rom. 10:9).  The Lord has promised to those that are saved, that He has a place prepared for us called Heaven (John 14:1-3).  This land is described as being one of utmost beauty where we will never hurt or need again.  We will go home someday to live with the One who paid the price and made the sacrifice so we could be saved.

While I know that dogs do not have souls and will not spend an eternity in either Heaven or Hell, we as people will.  We must be prepared for that day.  Has there been a day in your life when you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ? (Acts 16:31).

I will miss my dog Snickers, but I am comforted knowing he is in a place where he will be taken care of and can run and  play and enjoy life.  They say Dogs Don't go to Heaven; but mine sure did.