One of the best decisions of my life was to get a dog, Happy, twenty-one years ago. The effect of forming a bond with that puppy I rescued from a Virginia Beach animal shelter lead to celebrating tonight a college graduation. We attended a party for a young woman whose family has been part of my family, and vice-versa for more than two decades.
By choosing to bring home Happy all those years ago, when my orders transferred me to San Diego, I had to find a place to live that accepted a large dog. I rented an apartment in Lakeside, a community about twenty-five miles east of my base. In summer, Lakeside was least like the temperate 75 degrees that San Diego advertises year round. With my long working hours away, it influenced me to get Happy a friend. I brought Sydney home for company. As a consequence, I was relaxing in a coffee cafe one summer evening nearby, at which a woman and her date also were there.
As a result of them sharing their faith with me, and inviting me to a church service, my entire future recalibrated. I found a genuine and profound relationship with Jesus. Three years later, I married that woman, and became an instant dad of three pre-teen boys.
Now, the family with whom my wife and I are celebrating tonight the college graduation were quite literally growing up together – our boys were in their family-run day-care while my future wife was going to Nursing school. As the boys grew up, Happy and Sydney would accompany them on hikes and outings, and hanging out on summer break. When both Happy and Sydney had passed on, it was a month or two later that our son brought a puppy, Dexter, into the house. For all this time, our dogs have never known our house or our hikes to be lacking in caring friends – especially our ‘church family’. And the life I have now is not limited to this little corner of California. We were embraced by ‘church family’ on a trip to Northern Ireland.
We have had bible studies, dinners, graduations, going-away parties, milestone birthdays and barbecues where these friends and more. My life grew in dimensions I could hardly have imagined all those years ago – because of my heart for a dog.