I have usually had a dog in my life, with those odd times being a few years after one has died. There hasn't been just one breed. I grew up with a Scottish Terrier named Lady Angus Pelham. Then there was a Lhasa Apso named Muffin. Following her I had two Cocker Spaniels whose names where Kurant and Citron. And now I am sharing space and life with a Bernese Mountain dog named Allie (Cat). She is the first large dog I've owned and is the first I haven't had since she was a puppy. I got her when she was a year and a half. She had been "returned" to the breeder after having been abused and abandoned by the people who had originally taken her. She is doing remarkably well given her early experience in life.
I think caring for animals, whether dogs or cats or some other domesticated pet, provides a hint at what being a shepherd must be like. There is responsibility for the care of these creatures who can shower unbridled affection on their caretaker. They respond to your voice, in times of love and in times of correction. And they know so much more than we give them credit for. When you are responsible for a pet, they know you are not just a hired hand to care for them, but know that you are theirs and they are yours.
If we allow ourselves to be open to God's call, to walk into the embrace of the Good Shepherd, we will know a love and care that is beyond anything we can imagine giving to and providing for the ones we have chosen to provide for. The Good Shepherd knows us and will care for us. The hurt and pain we have had can be reshaped if we walk through those gates where the Good Shepherd stands watch, where that Good Shepherd knows each by name. It can be difficult to do this, but all we have to do is open our hearts to hear and respond to that call of the One that gives us life and knows our name.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.