He simply wandered right into our life. One fall while the men were harvesting our son Alex spotted a young pooch wandering down the nearby rock road. Good man that he is, he scooped him up and took him up to the nearest house thinking he was returning the dog to it’s rightful owners.
Alex: “ I brought your dog home.”
Response: “We don’t have a dog.”
So he brought him home and he became our dog, and we named him Bandit. Even though on the surface it appears we rescued him, in the end he rescued us.
As a young pup he had plenty of energy and loved to chase cats and birds and play rough with our other dog Ali. He chewed up all kinds of things he should not have and sometimes did his duty in the house, which was irritating to us of course, but that’s part of the gig and we loved him anyway. He was a smart little fellow who learned quickly and loved to please. With some excellent assistance from a lifelong friend and animal trainer, our youngest daughter Maggie took him to the county 4-H fair dog show and he and she were grand champions for six years running. He grew into not only an excellent watchdog, walking partner and constant companion to us and to all who visited our home, but a beloved family member and friend. Cats, squirrels, deer, geese and birds excepted.
He was with us through snow storms, floods, droughts and a derecho. He was with us through births and deaths, graduations and weddings, ups and downs of all shapes and sizes. He was with us when the other dog Ali died unexpectedly. He was with us when Jay and I became grandparents and empty nesters. Day after day, night after night Bandit was a steady presence in our home. He was almost always (a little less when his hearing went) there to greet us with his tail wagging and a sparkle in his eyes. Always ready to eat. Always excited for Jay to come home and share his people’s food with him. Always watching me drive down the driveway from the kitchen door. Always ready to run around the yard. And always ready to go up to bed when I woke him on the couch at night. Bandit was always here.
Over the last few years, he slowed down. Eventually, he couldn’t take the long walks with me anymore, as they seemed to make him lame. He was, after all, the equivalent of one hundred and five years old in people years. So instead he followed me around the house and the yard. Sometimes running giant circles in a sprint, barking at passersby or some critter; or simply enjoying the warm summer sun or apples on the ground under the apple tree. In the end he was found wherever I was.
The day after Christmas Bandit took a sudden turn. And just like he was always there for me, I was there beside him in what turned out to be the last week of his life and our longest journey together. We lost him early one morning, just a couple days into the New Year. Both Jay and I were at his side in the kitchen (his favorite room of the house) as he breathed his last breath. As Shakespeare so rightly said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow . “
Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined how very difficult Bandit’s passing would be and what a huge hole he would leave in our daily lives. Jay and I both grew up on farms and are well acquainted with death. We have had pets die, both lost our parents, friends and loved ones down through the years. But the depth of grief and sorrow for this particular loss has taken us by surprise.
The truth of the matter is if there had been no real love then there would be no pain now. The source of our sorrow is because we loved and were loved and the two are directly connected, you cannot have one without the other. At some point in life love will demand loss. It’s a fact of life in a fallen, dying world.
Shakespeare also said, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Love is a risky business, there is the option to never take the risk in order to avoid the pain. How lonely and awful that must be. In the end, unconditional love from others is what we humans crave most, a love that never fails or leaves or gives up on us; our greatest desire is to love and to be loved. Bandit gave us a glimpse of what that looks like and so much more. In his own small way he rescued us for a short fifteen years from the morass of a broken world by simply being present and by being who God created him to be, someone who brought love and happiness to our lives. He reminded us of what trusting without fear looks like and that there is beauty and joy in the world in the midst of brokenness.
And if a little Jack Russell/Beagle dog can do this much, how much more must our Eternal, All Powerful, Ever Present, Loving Heavenly Father love us! He offers to rescue us from the quicksand of living in a world where death is inescapable. After all, He so loved, just chew on those words, so loved, the world, that He gave His one and only Son not only to show us what God Himself is like, but to save us from death and darkness and offer us the chance to get back into the light of a right relationship with Him, right now and for all of eternity! For God Himself knows all about loving and losing and love being a risky business because He was willing to bet the farm on us with His most precious possession, Jesus Christ, whom He gave over to death on a cross, and who rose to life and lives and reigns as Lord of all today! Talk about loving and losing and loving again!
Whether or not we choose to recognize it, like our sweet boy Bandit, God is ever present with us in all places, times and circumstances. And if you have room in the inn of your heart, He is quite willing, at your invitation, to wander right in, rescue you and take up residence giving you love and life to the full now. What are you waiting for?
Which gives us reason great reasons to:
Be joy filled always,