My dear friend and e-mail pest Nelson deposited this story in my cyber mailbox this morning.
With more than 1 million copies in print, “Marley and Me — Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog” has struck a chord with dog lovers who are laughing and crying over author John Grogan’s account of his yellow Labrador retriever. The story is more than a recounting of Marley’s antics that include chewing through doors, expulsion from obedience school, clawing paint off concrete walls, devouring furniture, swallowing valuable jewelry and swooning over soiled diapers.
“It’s really not just a dog book,” Grogan said in an interview with Reuters. “Before Marley, our life was about career, relationship, and ourselves,” said Grogan, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He helped us shift from an egocentric life to something more generous.” In the book, Grogan wrote: “Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things — a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in the shaft of winter sunlight. “And as he grew old and achy, he taught he about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.”
The Marley story reported by Yahoo News noted that the nonfiction book has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks.
It reaffirmed what I have been saying for years. I need to combine my dog stories with other Christian best sellers in order to get enough book sales to retire. So I have begun work today on “The Power of Praying for Purpose Driven Dogs who are Left Behind.” Finally I will get some shelf space at the local Christian chain store! (Note to spiritual hall monitors: I am joking. I don’t write Christian books to generate income to retire. However, I wouldn’t mind getting enough to pay Baylor University tuition)
I realized the amazing connections we have with our canine partners after a tongue in cheek piece about the Canine School of Evangelism became the third most read rambling in the brief history of this blog. A follow up dog story about the Touch of the Master was also well received by readers. I had decided to take a break from the dog days of winter but a recent development from scenic Waco, Texas changed my mind. It started innocently enough with a phone call from youngest son, Baylor student, and dog lover Brett. He had spotted three abandoned puppies along the side of the road and he stopped to try and help them. Two ran off but he managed to round up one of them. Brett called to let me know that he intended to bathe, feed, care for the dog, and then take him to the Humane Society on Monday for adoption. I knew I was in trouble when Brett decided to let me know what his rescued puppy looked like. This arrived via cell phone messaging.
I called the lovely Mrs.Burchett. “He is working me,” I told her. “He is falling in love with this dog.” On Sunday I was driving through Waco and I stopped to see Brett and his alleged short term friend. The way this puppy followed Brett around and looked at him was astounding. He appeared to sense that Brett was, for him, the canine version of Amazing Grace. That dog seemed to understand that he once was lost, and now was found. Maybe if we remembered our dramatic rescue along the side of the road to destruction we might gaze at our Rescuer more consistently with such a look of adoration.
But now we had a bigger problem. I started falling in love with this improbable mutt. I took my own photo to show to Joni.
I laughed with her and we realized that our family dog population had just increased. Brett was scheduled to take the temporarily named “Trigger” to the vet for shots and a checkup on Monday since the Humane Society was no longer on the radar. On Monday another phone call came. Trigger had become violently ill overnight. The scourge of all abandoned puppies seemed to have attacked this sweet little ragamuffin mutt. Trigger had probably contracted the parvovirus. Brett’s words were heartbreaking in their honesty and love.
“Dad, I don’t think he is going to make it. But at least he knew he was loved for a few days.”
Okay. I cried at Old Yeller. I am a soft touch. But that remark from my youngest touched my heart and made me think that this is a microcosm of ministry. Sometimes it is heartbreaking. The results don’t always match our desires. But if we can love the down and out like Jesus at least they know they have been loved and they will know the source of that love.
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, `Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?’ And the King will tell them, `I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ Matt 25 – NLT
The results are not guaranteed when you minister to the least of these. But when we do minister to the least of these we show them the very face of Jesus. The lyrics from the group Casting Crowns fit nicely here.
Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus
Postscript: “Trigger” is being released from the animal hospital today. Ten days of intravenous feeding, medication, and a major hit on my MasterCard saved his life.