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NO, THE BANNER is not going to the dogs. Just this page. Being partial, I’ve long thought of paying my respects to these creatures God has made.

Why are these animals so devoted to the human race? They delight in our company and, unfailingly, welcome us home. We do not have a dog at present, but I still owe a debt of gratitude to Spotty and Pal, who brightened the days of our family life as long as we had them.

How many Christian Reformed dogs are there? Our denominational yearbook doesn’t say. Pal should be in it. She always knew when it was Sunday and never left her box in the kitchen corner when we had family devotions.

Years ago I had a book I should have never loaned out because I never got it back. Its title: Prayers of Animals. I saw it in a bookstore. I flipped through it aimlessly until I came to a page titled “The Prayer of the Dog.” That’s when I bought it and took it home. The prayer? “O Lord, only you and I know what faithfulness is.”

Moya is one of our granddogs. A German shepherd. A one-man dog. She waits by the window when it’s time for our son to return home from work. When Dick is out of town on business, she waits in vain. But when he calls later in the evening from wherever he is, Moya is allowed to hear her master’s voice. Then Moya licks the phone.

While canvassing the neighborhood some years ago, I was bitten by a dog guarding a house. I had a bone to pick with its owner. And once I called on a young couple who had the biggest Saint Bernard you ever saw. It drooled hugely, its enormous head resting on my lap while I prayed. Nor did I mind another time when a dog used me as a tree.

One question I have dealt with more than any other in my ministry always comes from the littlest people: “Will there be animals in heaven?” They’re thinking of their beloved pets, mostly dogs. I never feel any biblical warrant for answering in the negative. After all, if Paradise Regained means the Paradise that was, it should be remembered that the Paradise that was, was full of animals.

Speaking of heaven reminds me of my favorite dog story. There was a Christian physician whose office connected with his house. Meeting patients, he had merely to step through the door from his living quarters to his place of practice. He made a strict rule that was to be unfailingly observed by his children and his dog. They might never spill over into the office when Father was busy with patients. Sometimes the children forgot. But Rex never did.

One day a patient who was terminally ill called on the doctor. This man loved the Lord and was assured of his salvation. Nevertheless, he harbored some fears about his coming death. What would it be like? The doctor prayed with him. But before he did, he opened the door leading to his living room.

The doctor said, “I have a dog, Rex. She has never come through that doorway, but now I’m going to call her.” He did. Rex appeared, stopping short of the threshold. The doctor coaxed Rex to cross over. She would not. She had been trained well. Finally, after several minutes of urging, she took one flying leap and landed in the doctor’s lap.

The doctor turned to his patient. “This is what it’s like,” he said. “Like Rex just now, death is like going where you have never been before. But it’s all right . . . because the Master is there.” 

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