Core scripture: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
Message: It is never easy to put a dog down. It was almost a year ago on July 29, 2018 that we said goodbye to our sweet black lab mix. Per my wife’s request, we shall call her “E.” Although I wept that day, there were some perks I looked forward to. No more poop to scoop in the backyard. No more vet bills. No more arguing over who has to do “last call” before bedtime. No more Spot Shot to buy—unless my seven-year-old spills chocolate milk. (I still love you, Sweet Sweets!)
After mourning our dog’s passing, I actually basked in the beauty of those perks; however, that was not the case for the rest of my family. Especially my better half. It wasn’t even a month later that my wife started making regular trips to PetsMart and Petland on the weekend, to play with puppies of course. Man, I would roll my eyes and fight her on that. I mean, what guy would want to spend his free time walking around a smelly pet store?
I would shake my head, reluctantly hop in the car, and begrudgingly mope around while my boys would frolic with the dogs, but my wife—oh, my wife. She cherished that time. She needed it more than anything. As Marie Kondo would say, it sparked joy in her. Me? It sparked annoyance! I became the bad guy every weekend. It was a little bit of a joke at first, but it soon became reality that my family wanted a dog, and I was the only one preventing it.
Fast forward to April of this year. My wife had found a farm out in Spring Hill, Kansas, a mere 15-minute drive south, that temporarily housed senior dogs. Always and Furever, started by Jen Dulski after she moved to the Kansas City area in 2017, allowed dog lovers to volunteer after being trained. There was just something about that place. The moment I walked in, it was as if my wife were in doggy heaven. My boys, too. You take a bunch of volunteers who love dogs that much, and they get the best. I immediately fell in love with the place.
It became a family tradition to drive out there two to three evenings a week. My boys giggled as they ran around with Gump, Flopsy, Momma, Paddington, Bull. We learned all their names. There were always between 12 and 19 dogs lying around, waiting to be petted and loved on. It was odd, but I actually gained a sense of purpose while I was there too. Not only did I pet dogs, but I somehow found enjoyment in serving. It was productive. It helped them out. And I am one of those odd ducks that actually enjoys mowing. God bless, they let me mow!
The results of serving at Always and Furever were astounding. It gave my family a place to relax. A place to get some energy out. A place to help. A place to meet other dog lovers. A place to be the hands and feet of Christ. Jesus Himself said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). To serve Jen, to serve those dogs, I have to admit it sparked joy!
So, when my wife smiled that cute smile of hers and asked if we could foster a dog, I was taken. It was a done deal. The pros FAR outweighed the cons! Now my boys could laugh and smile even more at home. Now my wife could cuddle up and take a nap with a dog under her arm. Now I could enjoy the beauty and coolness of the morning on the back porch, taking my morning quiet time to the next level, as I let the dog do his or her business. To top it all off, fostering was free! Vet bills, food, bedding … it was all paid for by the barn.
Enter Ju Ju.
Ju Ju immediately sparked joy. She was about three-years-old, a basset hound pit bull mix. She was a stray from Wichita, paralyzed after giving birth to her pups. None survived, and Ju Ju ended up getting surgery so she could walk again. Her little legs churned beneath a little sausage-like body. I called her Pudge and Waddles. She looked like a bucking bronco hopping across the yard, and if her momentum carried her too quickly, she would barrel roll to switch directions. Wanna see? The video below will prove it.
She was the missing piece to our family. I had selfishly never realized the void left behind after “E” went to doggy heaven. There was a circle drawn around myself, leaving my little ones and my wife on the outside. Ever done that before? I suppose it is human nature to think of your own needs before others, but Christians flip the switch. Words of wisdom from Paul: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Amen!
Our family knew fostering Ju Ju meant she could be leaving anytime. God, however, blessed us with two months of this adorable dog. I got the word on Sunday at a Petsmart adoption event that a young couple laid eyes on Ju Ju, and the rest was history. It was love at first sight! Pending a home visit and background checks going through, this couple will be blessed with a new member to their family. (Say it with me … AWWWWWW! I love happy endings.)
What is left behind? Memories. Two months of delightful, heartwarming memories. Here are my top five:
- Ju Ju’s hiding place: She found it immediately. Beneath the windows of our family room in the back yard is a crawl space that only she can fit into. Her squat body is the perfect size to run beneath it, and she loved chilling there to escape the summer heat. The picture below is priceless.
- Ju Ju’s zoomies: That dog could run. Chasing balls, chasing birds, chasing anything that excited her, she catapulted herself around the yard like a wavering, powerful, crash-into-your-knees-if-you-don’t-got-out-of-the-way missile. Believe me. I have the bruises to prove it! And the video.
- Ju Ju’s waddle: When your T-Rex-esque legs only go so far, and you have a 45-pound body to carry around, you have no choice. You just waddle. Everywhere. It is the cutest waddle you’ll ever see. I know you want to see it yourself.
- Ju Ju climbing stairs: We didn’t even think she could do stairs with her thick, pudgy body, but oh, were we wrong! I was brushing my teeth one morning and heard my boys laughing. The next thing I knew, Ju Ju was licking my ankles. Seeing her climb the steps was hysterical.
- Ju Ju filling our family: She was the missing piece. I was too selfish to realize it before, but not now. Not after seeing the joy she brought to my wife and kids. And me, too, I suppose. Her belly was the softest thing you ever felt. Like velvet.
Two main applications come from this story. First and foremost, ask yourself where God is calling you to serve. Where are your passions? Do you like dogs? Volunteer there! Miss your grandmother or grandpa? Get involved with your local nursing home. Or maybe like me you enjoy making someone with Down syndrome smile. Find out about how to serve with Special Olympics. Put yourself out there and be the hands and feet of Christ! If you serve where your passion lies, you may not even realize you’re serving.
Secondly, and this is the most convicting question for me, where are you selfish? It is a daily battle for me. I struggle with iPad time when I should be with my family. Or taking the last piece of pizza when I should be offering it to my wife. Or keeping score, thinking I deserve time off from parenting if I have had the boys all afternoon. Or in not wanting to spark joy with a puppy. What about you?
There are still two and a half weeks left of summer. At least for me. If you haven’t served yet, do so! I can honestly say my marriage is better, I am healthier due to pushing that mower, and it has provided two memorable sleepovers for my boys. I want to plan one last finale sleepover with both. The benefits of serving at places like Always and Furever are priceless. And when you serve someone else, guess what? You automatically become less selfish and more giving.
May your last weeks of summer be fulfilling yet restful, productive yet peaceful.
Challenge: Find a healthy way to serve someone else. Here are some ideas that come to mind:
- The elderly could always use help with anything physical.
- Mow someone’s yard. Do it in secret while they are on vacation. Trim it for an added bonus.
- Give a construction worker a bottle of water on a hot day. (Bonus points if you take time to tell him or her about the Living Water.)
- Give a neighbor a date night. Watch their kids.
- Offer to pet sit for a neighbor. Do it for free.
- Find your local homeless shelter. Mission Southside is 10 minutes away from me. Check out their website here: http://www.missionsouthside.org/Donations
- Get in touch with Always and Furever! Here is their website: https://alwaysandfurever.love/
- Host a cookout or have neighbors over for dessert. Or heck, just invite kids to play in your yard, shoot hoops, or swing on your swing set.
- Volunteer at a concert. Life 88.5’s concert booths were run totally by volunteers.
- Clean for someone or wash their car. Without being asked.
- Write someone a note of encouragement. Need an example to go by? I wrote this letter years ago to the gal who created my cross tattoo on my shoulder. Connie letter
- Build something if you are handy. A home, tree house, dog house, whatever you know how to do.
- Drive someone somewhere or make a delivery with a vehicle that someone else needs.
- What do you do best? Whether it is baking cookies or simply enjoying a game of Pokemon with a seven-year-old, serve with a full heart.
- Check out these volunteer ideas for homeschoolers. I might show this to my students in the fall. Who says only homeschoolers can volunteer? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-w1YoFFAEA
Song application: “Do Something” by Matthew West
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something, yeah
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
Oh, it’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
Other scripture: Read Matthew 25:35-40. Who comes to mind when you read this passage? Who is in need of a little help, a little encouragement? Go serve them.
Prayer: Father, thank you for Christ’s model in serving others. Use us to be hands and feet of Your kingdom. Amen.