It was ten degrees outside on this cold December night. I stood squinting out the kitchen window, trying to see our 13-year-old golden retriever, Daisy, amongst the bushes. Her aged frame barely visible on this dark night, she ambled around the back yard and then she laid down. I called her name multiple times, then with obvious difficulty, she shakily pulled herself up from the frozen ground and returned to the door. Inside, she dropped with a thud. Five times during the night she repeated this process of going out, lying down, and rousing only to the sound of my incessant voice. What was unusual about this night, other than her behavior, was that I didn’t lie down on the couch to wait for her bark to be let back into the house. Over the last two years, she and I had developed something of a routine which occurred about once a week. Daisy’s 13-year-old bladder would need a reprieve about 2am and she’d rouse me with pacing and panting. I’d stumble down the stairs and let her out the back door, then flop myself upon the couch, wrapping up in a large fleece blanket. I would sleep there until she again roused me with a bark at the back door. If she’d had too much to drink during the day, sometimes this would occur several times that night, then the next day, we would pay attention to her water consumption better.
I stood in the kitchen watching her because I sensed that the watching was important. Critically important, as a matter of fact. When I brought her in again at 8am, the sound of her breathing alarmed me. A wet gurgling sound was coming from deep within her chest. She looked and acted exhausted. I called the vet and got her in right away. Sure enough, she had pneumonia. The vet told me that had I waited to bring her in, she might not have made it. When I described her behavior the night before, he said she could have been struck down in the middle of the night by hypothermia and died, had I not been watching and called her inside each time she laid down.
There are three things I’ve taken away from this episode. 1) If we are in tune with the Father, living our lives for the Audience of One Who is His Son, we can know things we wouldn’t normally know, even half asleep in the middle of the night; 2) God is always watching us and calls to us when we are about to get ourselves into trouble – and our best course of action is to heed and obey, no matter how tough it is; and 3) God cares about things that are important to us, like old dogs.
God Himself gave us the gift of an extended warranty on our old golden retriever this year for Christmas. Honestly, as I look at her sleeping in front of the fireplace, I am thankful that this probably isn’t the year we spend Christmas without her. God could still choose to take her home to Him, but I clearly see this moment now with her as a gift, ordained by my Dad in heaven, just for our family.
I am also thankful for the work He’s given me to do. This week and last, I’ve met with multiple women as they’ve contacted me to let me know what’s going on in their marriages, to celebrate, to share their struggles, and to cry and pray with them. I am privileged to bring His Word to them during these times, thankful to be part of turning them to Him. I don’t have the answers, but He does, and He always proves Himself faithful.
And I am especially thankful for the gift of eternal life He’s given to all of us who choose to believe in the miracle of Christmas: That God became man, came to earth as a baby, sacrificed Himself to save us, rose on the 3rd day, and if we will but believe, we can have life eternal with this Creator in heaven when we die. Right now, the best part of that gift is the relationship I have with a Being that loves me, pursues me, listens and speaks. And sometimes loves in the form of a simple life extension for a treasured family pet.