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Bear, the Heaven-Sent Dog

A shelter dog is saved by a twist of fate.

Bear, the heaven sent dog.
Credit: Gareth Thompson
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She was a pitiful-looking mutt, leaning into her wire cage door at the animal shelter, straining for us to pet her through the mesh. She was silent, in contrast to all the animated barking of the other dogs in the neighboring kennels.

She only looked at us imploringly with great big brown eyes. “Save me,” she seemed to be saying.

Mostly black Lab, partly unknown, she was frizzy and dirty, abandoned because she “pulled too hard” on the leash.

“She’ll outgrow that,” my husband Dave and I said to each other confidently. We didn’t learn until much later that it was not merely a behavior characteristic of a barely year-old dog but sheer enthusiasm and strength of spirit that made her forever lunge forward on the leash. If one is lucky, these are qualities that should never be outgrown. Bear taught us that.

“Bear? That’s a dumb name for a girl dog,” we said. But she answered to it, nevertheless, the only remnant from an owner who had kept her less than a year and dumped her off with no more than an obligatory information card. So Bear she was and is.

Come to think of it, it suits her well. She’s black as coal, other than a dash of white on her chest and one front paw. She’s all chops and paws and hind end and love.

“What’s the red ribbon on her cage?” Dave asked the shelter attendant. We noticed she was one of a few dogs that had one on the cage door.

“Oh, that means she doesn’t have much time left,” the attendant answered while mopping the floor.

“What do you mean?” I asked, although I already knew that they could keep each dog only 21 days before they euthanized them. Bear’s clock was ticking. The attendant read the information card on Bear’s cage.

“Actually, this dog was supposed to be put down this morning. We’ve got somebody new working here, though, and he accidentally put her back in the cage after he cleaned it, so we figured we’d wait until tomorrow.”

Tears came to my eyes. Death had come for Bear that day and she hadn’t even realized her narrow escape. How could we not take her?

Bear had borrowed time and kept the change. This was a dog that could teach us a lesson in the richness of life and its bald-faced fragility. This was a dog that had come face to face with the harsh realities of life and still pulled hard on the leash. She was ours.

The first order of business was a bath. Rivulets of dirt and dust poured from Bear in our bathtub that night. Afraid at first, she began to enjoy the bath and the feeling of being clean and cared for. Who would’ve known that underneath it all Bear had a thick, shiny coat of fur?

We put a collar on her and officially claimed her as our own. She seemed proud of her new status and really came alive. This dog that had been so quiet at the shelter found her voice quickly and often.

We took her to the park, where she ran freely back and forth between us. Bear was a new dog, all right. Six-and-a-half years later, we cannot imagine life without Bear. She sleeps on my feet now as I type, unaware that I am once again remembering her rocky start in life. She is also unaware of how essential her existence is to me in contemplating my own life. God brought us to the animal shelter that day by happenstance, to save a dog that should have died before we even saw her.

God also sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save a world that was unaware of its precarious position on the edge of death.  We are all dead in our sins, but through the salvation of Jesus we are washed clean, set free and given a new life for eternity. We become the new creations foretold in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

If we only strain against the leash of sin and open that door to Him, death will one day call and find us missing too. We will be absent from the body and present with the Lord. Thank God for allowing a U-turn of eternal proportions.


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