“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal…” (Proverbs 12:10).
The photo above has a wall hanging (blanket) of Fenway Park, before they moved the giant coke bottles, and me and Tannin (my cat who wants to be involved with everything I do) and the bearded bear in kilts who plays a Drop Kick Murphy’s song when you squeeze his hand (RED SOX fans will understand the symbolism). Tannin and I are sitting on the couch Damon always slept on when he came to be with me, while Jane and Mark were at work. If you look very closely at the photo, in the middle bottom of the two RED SOX pillows is a partial poster we took to a game. The original poster said, “Our Damon loves (heart symbol) Johnny Damon” with drawings of both the baseball player and Jane’s dog Damon. Needless to say, when Johnny Damon left for the “dark side” (Yankees), we just cut him out of the poster and the dog named Damon became known as “the Good Damon.” (I also beheaded my Johnny Damon bobble head, which I’m not very proud of.)
Jane knows how to share with me. As a single woman with cerebral palsy, I never married and had children of my own, but I love Jane’s sons as though they were my own. I know Jane and her husband love them with the special maternal and paternal love parents have for their children, but I can’t imagine how I could love them any more than I do. My nephews help me to use my nurturing gifts. Jane also shared Damon with me. I always wanted a dog, but with my poor motor skills, I would not be able to take a dog for walks and meet all its needs. Having a dog is like having a baby around. So I opted to have housemates instead; my two cats, Tannin and Tulip. My cats are very loving and are very nice company, and they are very independent and only need me to give them water and feed them once a day and clean their litter box. They also provide “pet therapy” by jumping on my lap whenever I feel sad. They seem to say, “Here ‘Mom,’ pet me and all your troubles will roll off my back and down to the tip of my tail and out of sight. I got this one for you. PURRRR!” Tulip and Tannin are “PURRfect” housemates. However, it was also nice to be Damon’s “Auntie” and have my “dog fix” when I “babysat” for him. Damon knew that Auntie Lydia had the best windows to look out of (I had nose prints across my living room picture window to prove it.) to catch that nasty mail carrier up to his nasty tricks. Damon also knew I had the best treats and I wouldn’t make him do silly dog tricks to get one or two or three.
(Tulip would rather be in her box)
The Good Damon was a yippy-yappy-sneezer black schnauzer, with a little bit of white under his chin, just like my cats have. He would bark and bark and bark at everyone – people who came into the house, people walking across the street. Wherever he saw people, he would bark, and he would especially bark at the mail carrier. When a friend would come into my house, he would bark and bark and bark. Then, he would stop. Jane said, he wanted to tell his life story to everyone, and then he was done barking. But, if the same friend went to get something from her car and come back in, he’d start the process all over again with the barking. I would say, “Damon, it’s Pam. She was here a minute ago. You already ’greeted her,”’ but it didn’t matter. Damon would have to tell her his life story all over again. The funny thing is, when he needed to go out, he wouldn’t bark, but he would sneeze instead and keep sneezing until someone got the message. Despite the initial annoying barking, all my friends grew to love Damon. They loved how he knew how to give a “high five” with his paw to get a treat, and they loved how he snuggled next to them, to rest after his long speech.
Some people did not want to meet Damon with all his barking. They missed a blessing.
If you were to understand dog-speak, you would realize that Damon did have quite a miraculous life story to tell. If cats are the only ones who have nine lives, Damon was surely part cat. When he was a puppy, Jane took Damon to the park to watch her youngest son play baseball. Damon was on a leash and Jane secured the leach around the leg of her folding chair. Before Jane could do anything, a girl came over and picked Damon up and almost choked him to death. Jane’s husband heard Damon’s yelp clear across the park. Thank the Lord that he didn’t choke, but Jane had to take him to the vet and it took quite awhile for him to heal. After that incident, Damon never let anyone pick him up again. He did not like to be held. Damon would jump up next to you, but you better not try picking him up or there would be biting involved.
Besides being picked up, he absolutely hated going to the groomers. “I will come into your space, but you better not invade mine or teeth marks will be involved. Again, I think this came from being yanked and almost decapitated as a puppy. Even a strong dose of tranquilizer would not calm him down. One time, after a very difficult time at the groomer’s, the groomer suggested that Jane try giving Damon a tranquilizer before coming. When Jane said that she did, the groomer exclaimed, “YOU DID?!” When Jane took Damon to the next grooming appointment, she found the door locked and the lights out. So, instead of going to a groomer, Jane’s oldest son had the job of cutting Damon’s hair, while Jane held him and fed him treats. One time, when Jane and Damon came down to show me that he really was a schnauzer, she said, “Damon did really good this time. He only snapped at Luke twice.” Of course, I and all my friends praised Damon and told him how handsome he looked, in hopes that it would make Luke’s job easier the next time. He enjoyed people making a fuss over him, but I don’t know if it ever helped make the grooming process (ordeal) any easier.
When Damon was a few years old, he got hit by a truck on our busy street. We were taking care of our mom at the time and my dad had passed away few years before. My mom and I heard a great commotion and Jane crying, “Don’t leave me Damon! Please don’t leave me!” Damon was still alive, but unconscious, when they drove him to the animal hospital in Springfield. The people at the hospital were working on him and told Jane it would be a few days before they would know anything. A few days later, I went with Jane to the animal hospital and the doctor showed us x-rays of his skull. Jane wanted to see him. The doctor warned us that he had a lot of tubes and that he was “out of it.” But, when Jane and I went in, Damon heard her voice and immediate wanted to get up and see her. The nurse told us to leave, so that Damon wouldn’t hurt himself. This made Jane very sad that she couldn’t even be with him. On the way home, I told her I was encouraged. “Look how Damon responded to you. I think he’s going to make it.” I couldn’t believe I was saying this out loud. I’m always careful of not making guarantees when I don’t know what’s going to happen. But, I just knew God was going to bring Damon back to us.
After staying awhile in the Springfield hospital, the doctors advised Jane to move Damon to an animal hospital in Worchester which specialized in brain trauma, so that’s what she did. After work each day, she would go see Damon. When Damon saw Jane he lit up and became more alert. The nurses told her he was a different dog when she came to visit. I went with Jane once to Worchester to see Damon and another time to take him home. We saw Damon in a room, and all he did was go in circles, bearing right. But, the nurse said he was making progress. After a few weeks, Damon came home and he still walked in circles. We had a mesh crate to put him in, so he would rest. Day by day, Damon got better a little at a time. What was amazing, during this time, was that Luke’s dog helped with Damon’s therapy. Damon would always rear to right, and Diesel made Damon chase him around the table going the other way. When Jane took them for walks, Diesel would be his right side, so when Damon would want to turn right, Diesel would nudge him to go straight. It was simply astonishing to watch. How did Diesel know to do that? I say it’s a God thing!
Damon did recover, although he did have a little trouble with a few things. He had trouble licking and had a little trouble moving his jaw and I think his eye-sight was affected. But, even with the licking difficulty, when Jane came home from work, he did manage to lick her hand once or twice. In fact, Jane coming home would be quite an event. When he saw her pull up in the driveway, he would literally vibrate and howl and do his Snoopy imitation, with his nose straight up in the air. I was afraid he was going to fall off the wide window ledge. Then, he would run frantically from window to window. While all this is happening, I’m saying, “Damon, go upstairs! Jane is going upstairs!” When Damon finally heard me, he would run in place for about five seconds, like in a cartoon, and finally run up the back upstairs. Jane said that “Damon loves me more than air!” And I do believe she’s right.
If nearly getting choked to death and being hit by a truck wasn’t enough, during one of their walks, Damon was attacked by two basset hounds that were not leashed. Before Jane could get the hounds away, part of Damon’s ear was ripped off. Thankfully, this time Damon was not badly hurt. Sometimes, the ears of schnauzers are clipped, but not Damon’s. Jane loved his “question-mark” ears. Now, you see why I believe Damon had the nine lives of a cat.
We enjoyed Damon being part of our family for about ten years. He loved taking walks with Jane and kayaking with Jane and watching TV with Jane and cooking with Jane and visiting me with Jane and doing anything, as long as Jane was involved. All he ever wanted was to be with Jane and maybe eating my treats. He was the happiest dog on planet earth, exuding the epitome of contentment when laid on the couch in the middle of Jane and Mark. All he wanted was to have his family around him. The sound I loved hearing the most was Damon running around above my head (I lived below Jane and Mark, on the fist floor of their house). I knew he must have had a bath and he was running around “air-drying” himself. I loved hearing him run, especially with knowing all that he had gone through. I knew that God gave Damon to us to learn more and experience what love was all about. It’s all about an unconditional love, a sacrificial love, a love that will do whatever it takes, a love that has no end. That is what God’s love is all about:
“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)
“I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command…This is My command: Love each other” (John 15:11-14, 17).
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have a sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (I Peter 1:22).
There is a bumper sticker with the words, “My Dog Has Issues” with a heart symbol after this sentence. I used to call Damon our “special needs” dog because of his many issues – separation anxiety, not wanting to be picked up, the uncontrollable barking (at times) when you least expect it (With my cerebral palsy, I’m surprised that there aren’t any cracks in my ceiling due to my startle reflex!). But, now I realize that God gave Damon to us to minister to our “special needs.” During a very difficult time in our lives, taking care of our mom whose health was failing, Damon provided Jane with walks and much needed respite time she needed. Damon taught me how much God loves me by seeing how much Damon loved Jane. Damon taught me how much I needed to love God and spend time with Him. And Damon taught me how much I should love my family at home and my extended family in Christ and to never take anything for granted and never hold back my love, but to love and enjoy my family to the max, as Damon did.
This kind of love is not easy. Whether you love a person or an animal, love hurts when the one you love is gone, even when you know you will see your loved one again. Loving someone “deeply, from the heart” hurts. Many times, at a funeral, people will try to comfort others by saying, “Don’t cry. She/He is in a better place” or “Don’t cry. You’ll see him/her again.” These things may be true, but unless the person is able to raise the dead as Jesus did when He said “Don’t cry” and raised the widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17), saying, “Don’t cry is not really that appropriate. Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Romans 12:15 echoes this advice: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” If you may not cry when someone you love has died, then when on this side of heaven may you cry and acknowledge the hurt that comes from losing a loved one? Instead, we should not use words when there are no words to say, but simply hug the person who suffered an extremely significant loss and validate his/her pain as real pain and weep with that person.. The words can wait. “…weeping may remain for a night [or a season], but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).
Is this kind of love, which loves “deeply from the heart”, worth all the pain that it involves? The answer is YES. When we love as Jesus loves us our lives are so much richer when we allow someone and/or a pet in so close. Isn’t that what Jesus commands us to do: “Love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37 and 39). Think how empty life would be if we didn’t allow ourselves to love anyone or anything “deeply from the heart” to avoid the pain that comes from this kind of love? We are able to love in this extraordinary way because God first loved us (I John 4:7-21). Love and pain are intertwined and God uses them both to teach us about His everlasting love, so that we can love Him more and love others as He loves us.
In the beginning of creation, God created the animals (Genesis 1:20-24). God then created mankind to take care of His creation: “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground – everything that has breath of life in it – I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw all that He made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:29-31a) and “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15). God gave mankind the earth to take care of it. God gave them fruits and vegetables to grow and eat and He gave them the animals to care for. It was only after mankind sinned against God that animals were killed and their blood was shed (Genesis 3:21). Abel sacrificed to God, bringing “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel’s offering…” (Genesis 4:4). That was the beginning of the shedding of animal blood as an acceptable offering for man’s sin. Hebrews 9:22 states, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Of course, Abel’s sacrifice made Cain jealous and Cain killed Abel and it was also the beginning of the shedding of human blood [Genesis 4:8] and the sinful act or murdering another human being.)
I do not know why God required animals to be sacrificed and their blood to be shed for the remission of sins. I only know that it didn’t work because man became prideful in their sacrifices, instead of being humble in the presence of God. God always had a better way (Genesis 3:15 talks about what Jesus will do for us):
“When Christ came as High Priest of the good things that are already here, He went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through His eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:11-14).
Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross we are saved, forgiven of our sins and are given eternal life. Not only are we saved, but so are all the animals that were used as sacrifices. Did you ever think about that? I believe Jesus loves animals. After all, He was born in a stable (Matthew 2:7). This is how he talks about them:
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).
“He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other” (Matthew 12:11-13).
“Then He asked them, ‘If one of you has a donkey or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” (Luke 14:12).
“Then Jesus told them a parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he find it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep”’” (Luke 15:3-6).
“I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me – just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father – and I lay down My life for My sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd. The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life – only to take it up again” (John 10:14-17).
In the above Scriptures, Jesus uses our age-old love of animals to teach us how much God loves us and how we should love one another. Jesus also used the dog named (the Good) Damon to teach me these things too.
Damon became very sick near the beginning of the Fall. In retrospect, Jane realized that he was slowing down during the Summer. At the time, she thought it was the Summer heat. By Fall, Damon had very swollen glands and had trouble keeping down food and water. She took him to the vet, but after a few weeks on a strong antibiotic there was no change. It was a Thursday when she came down to me with Damon to say Good-bye. While she was waiting for her husband to come home, so that they could both take him to the vet for the last time, I said to Jane, “I’m calling Luke. He would want to say Good-Bye.” That gave Jane the idea to bring Damon to UMASS to see her youngest son Noel, in her red sports car with the top down. Damon loved that!. After their visit with Noel, Damon perked up, so they went to a little park, where he enjoyed walking and he even was able to keep some food down. This made Jane and Mark postpone going to the vet. But, by Saturday, they both knew they had no other choice. Our beloved Damon had to be put to sleep. The next day, Jane told me, if I didn’t call Luke she wouldn’t have thought about going to see Noel and they wouldn’t have had one last good day with Damon. She said that without that one good day, what they had to do would have been so much worse. She will always remember that day. This goes to show me that the times the Lord uses me best, are the times I just do what He tells me to do, without thinking too much and by getting out of His way. We all miss Damon, but we will never forget him and the lessons God taught us through our Good Damon.
Paw Prints in the Sand
By: Donna Messer
We walked together you and I
Along the shore, beneath the sky.
Friends forever we will be
My pet, my pal, just you and me.
Watchful always, aware of life
A calming strength, relieving strife.
Cold nose, warm eyes, a paw well-placed
You made the world a better place.
You came, it seemed, from up above
A gift from God providing love.
You never asked more from me
Than love returned; a family.
Our days together remembered well.
Oh the stories you could tell.
Sadness you could always see
Your stalwart presence there for me.
We walked along the sands of time,
Footprints left, yours and mine.
In my heart you’ll always be
My best friend eternally.
I gazed upon the sands of time
The prints I saw that day weren’t mine
They were yours and yours alone,
God had come to take you home.
This was not the post I planned to write, but the one I had to write. My next post, “if God wills and the creek don’t rise” will be: “What was Jesus Thinking?” But I will write this next post near the end of October. So you will have plenty of time to read this one.