Reading time: Approximately 13 minutes
“You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus...”
Sitting in the back seat of her family’s car, Missy wished it could go faster. She couldn’t wait to get home and play with Ginger’s puppies. Their family dog, Ginger, had given birth only a few short weeks ago to 6 lovable puppies. Missy had watched the entire birthing process with her dad and her older sister Sherry. Her brother Ralphy and sister Candy were too young and had to stay inside with their mom. Missy’s dad had said that she was old enough to see Ginger give birth. I guess being in 3rd grade had it’s advantages.
As Sherry and her mom sat in the front seat chatting Missy felt her dad slow the car down. “Dad, I think we have all red lights!” Missy said as she watched yet another yellow light turn red. Her dad just glanced back and smiled.
Ralphy sat next to Missy slapping his knees as though they were bongo drums. He started singing, “Missy misses... oh yea! Missy misses the puppies!” Candy sat next to him reading the church bulletin from that morning. Without looking up she started humming along. Missy quickly wondered how Candy could read it only being in kindergarden.
Amused by their song Missy remembered how she had watched the puppies being born. She fell in love as each one arrived. Ginger walked around between the 6 births. Then she would lay down, push and out popped a small puppy. Ginger quickly licked the sack off of each one and a little whine would start to emerge from the puppy’s mouth. After a couple of hours all six were born and had crawled around to find a spot to nurse. It gave Missy so much joy and excitement. Every day all she could think about was waking up and checking on the puppies. She watched as each day they grew bigger. Slowly their eyes opened and they became stronger. Missy would pick up each one and cuddle with it. She would love on every single puppy, not one was left out. As they started adventuring out of the dog house, she watched them walking as though they were on a rocking boat. When missy came home from school each day the first thing she did was check on the puppies.
Just yesterday their wobbly walks brought them all the way across the patio and onto the grass, tripping and stumbling as they went along. They then laid out in the sun. This morning Missy was concerned about how hot the day might be. Her parents assured her they would be fine, “Ginger will not let them stay in the sun too long.” her mom had assured her. Just to be sure, before they left for Church Missy gave each of them a nice cool bath and placed them inside the dog house.
Missy looked out her window and noticed they were at their last turn before their cult-a-sack. As they turned she could see her house. Yes! They were home. The car stopped and Missy dashed out eagerly waiting for the front door to be unlocked. Her dad opened the door and she was the first one through it, skipping over to the back sliding glass door. There they were, all laying in the grass sleeping in the sun. Ginger was at the door whining. She knew as soon as she called, all of them would look up and try to come to her as fast as they could. Missy pushed open the glass and called for them. None of them moved. She ran over to the first sleeping pup to wake it up, sweeping it up into her hands. Missy’s body tensed up and right away she knew something was wrong. The puppy’s body was stiff! It was as if she had picked up a piece of wood, the body didn’t move out of it’s sleeping position. Her heart skipped a beat as she noticed ants crawling in and out of the puppy’s mouth. She screamed and dropped the corps. Missy screamed again as she looked out at the other puppies that laid just as still as the first. Not reacting to anything.
Shock ran through her body as Missy ran inside and yelled to her parents, “Something wrong with puppies!!!!” Distraught set in and she became overwhelmed with emotion. Her mom made her stay in the front room as she and her dad went to check. All of Missy’s siblings watched what was happening, her wailing cries of terror could not be tamed. “Their dead! How could they have died?” She watched out the window as her dad picked each one up and placed it in a big garbage bag. When her mom came in she asked if any of them were alive. Her mom told her that all of them were dead!
“Are you sure? All of them?”
They were fine that morning, but dead by the time they returned from church. Why didn’t Ginger get them back into the dog house? Did giving them a bath have anything to do with it? Missy couldn’t comprehend the reality with any rational thoughts. To think of the puppies becoming so hot that they couldn’t even move, so hot that their bodies just baked to death was overwhelming. The reality was just too much to take in. Missy drowned her thoughts of being responsible for slow cooking Ginger’s puppies to death. Her conclusions were wild. Never again would she give puppies baths she thought. Never again would she even think about taking care of any animal... she might make a mistake and kill them! Missy’s thoughts haunted her, derailing all the passion she ever had in caring for God’s living creatures. And it was the only thing that had given her purpose and joy. Now it was gone!
Later that evening Missy’s dad comforted her by saying that the puppies probably didn’t feel a thing. That they were enjoying the sun and didn’t even realize that their temperatures had slowly risen. He told her that they had probably died while they were fast asleep.
As the next few weeks passed the puppies’ deaths was a hard reality of life to grasp. If only she hadn't bathed the puppies that morning. if only, if only. She wished she could go back and change the morning. But she couldn’t. Regret and loss is all she thought about.
One morning Missy woke up and again had to stop herself from thinking she could run down and greet the puppies. Slowly, she walked downstairs and noticed Ginger eating food from her food bowl. “Maybe her dog might never want to have puppies again after such a loss.” Missy thought. Did Ginger know that the baths Missy gave the puppies left them wet and vulnerable to the hot sun? Did her dog know that Missy had killed them? Ginger saw Missy and ran up to greet her.
“I’m sorry Ginger.”
Ginger licked her hands as if she forgave her. Instead of staying in her bed forever she was up eating and even greeted Missy with a forgiving wagging tail. Missy sat on the bottom stair and pet Ginger. They exchanged hello’s and good mornings as Missy felt grace come upon her. As strong as ever she felt words come into her head.
“You didn’t know the danger. Now you know.” It was not an audible voice but Missy felt the urge to reason with it.
“But I killed them!”
More words came, “I give, I take away.”
As if talking to empty space Missy cried out, “But God, why did you let them die?”
Ginger looked up and placed her head on Missy’s lap. Again words came, “Trust me Missy. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from your Father with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. The puppies were a gift. I need you to continue to love my creatures. To be a truthful witness that saves lives. I need you to help others see what I have shown you and will show you... so they can live.”
Missy could not fully understand the words that played in her head. But for some reason she trusted them. She did not want to see any more puppies innocently crawl out to their deaths. If she could warn others about this danger she would! She also realized that she had to stop meditating on all of her regrets concerning that morning. After all, Ginger watched them bake in the sun. The puppies she gave birth to, licked clean and nursed. Ginger probably tried to get them up and move them back to safety but couldn’t get them back. Even Ginger couldn’t stop what had happened. And yet here she was ready to give and receive love again.
While moving forward with a hole in her heart, Missy realized that those adorable little puppies had served a purpose by being in her life. Her dog Ginger seemed to have moved on as the spring came again and again. In fact, Ginger went on to have several more litters in her lifetime. Missy cared for each with the same love and devotion. Regret and loss had not derailed her forever... only for a season. Her passion for caring for pets flourished in the years ahead as she learned to train birds and dogs as well as care for cats and rats. The puppies were not the only losses she was to experience in her lifetime. Missy came to realize the gifts in remembering, reflecting, healing, getting up and moving on. She came to realize what it meant to be a true witness, sharing what she learned with others. These were muscles that God so graciously strengthened in her at a young age, knowing what was to come. Knowing the plans He had for her.
Never did she forget the pack of puppies that she loved, the pack that had died so young.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.