A Pet’s Purpose in Caregiving

In His Care. Three simple words that I am struggling with right now. It has been a very difficult week after finding out that our precious Shelby, a seven-year-old golden retriever, has a fast-growing, inoperable cancer with a bad prognosis. It has made me think about the role our pet’s play in caregiving. My father was always a dog lover, and he had a special fondness for Shelby. Often, I would bring her along when I visited Mom and Dad, and they lit up around her. She brings pure joy to everyone she meets.

It’s no wonder that therapy dogs are so important in hospitals and nursing homes. Quite simply, they are good for the soul. They are similar to babies in that they bring happiness and smiles to people, along with relieving stress and pain. They have the ability to distract people from their problems. And that is what Shelby does for me.

Our sweet Shelby is a playful, spirited dog, but she always calms down around older people and children. After my parents died, Shelby was the one who could always cheer me up. Our pets are the perfect example of unconditional love, and I believe God has a special love for the beautiful animals that He created.

The first thing we learned about our rescue dog, Shelby, is that she is a “leaner,” meaning she leans into people petting her. We’ve had three goldens, but she is the first “leaner.” She just can’t contain her love.  Her amazing spirit got us kicked out of dog training school as she just couldn’t control her excitement about being around other people and animals.

She is a big dog who desperately wants to be a lap dog, and she climbs on the sofa trying to squeeze her way onto laps. It used to embarrass me how excited she got over anyone coming to our door, but now I see just how much she truly loves people. Each time we got to the vet, she makes new friends. Even the receptionist at our vet’s office started to cry when she saw Shelby’s pathology report.

And our pets can make us laugh. On our first outing to the dog park, she laid in the only mud puddle in the park, and she was so happy about it. I have come to love and appreciate her sense of fun.

She is so loved by our entire family. This story would not be complete without mentioning her best friend, Maisie, my daughter’s dog. When we go to Nashville to visit our two children, we take Shelby with us, and she and Maisie literally “go crazy” playing like little puppies. They are both happy and energetic playmates.

I am praying hard knowing that Shelby and I are in His care, but worries keep interrupting that thought. I am struggling with anticipatory grief, wondering how I will go on without her.  She is special, and I know I will never be able to replace her. I look at her amazing spirit and wonder if I could try to live each day as joyfully as she does. What an example she is.

When I was struggling with depression and anxiety several years ago, I could always wrap my arms around her and feel better immediately.  She is the best caregiver ever as she calms me down, even during panic attacks. Quite simply, I have received much more care from her than I have given to Shelby. I am forever in her debt.

Scripture Verses:

Genesis 1:21 So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 6:19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

Prayer

Dear Father, we believe that we are always in Your care. Thank You for the gift and example of our pets. They provide comfort, love, and joy. Although they don’t have long lives, help us to enjoy and appreciate the time we have with them. We simply can’t repay the love they give us during their short period on earth.

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