A stray on the edge of starvation, she slept with her body pressed against the chain link door of the kennel. Dogs barked, children yipped at the sight of the dogs barking and the parents followed the children, their heavy sighs seen but not heard from being drowned out. Such a tumultuous place and the spotted white dog slept.
I stopped at the door. “Look at this one,” I called to my family. “She looks nice.”
It was the beginning. We didn’t know it. Beginnings can be so subtle that they are as quiet as a sleeping dog in a kennel of 80 others barking on a Saturday morning.
My seven-year-old son named her. “We should call her Mercy,” he said. “Because that is what we’re showing her.”
Her name quickly changed to Merfect. Companionable, she is loyal, friendly and tender, always happy to meet new friends.
“Mercy is the best thing we’ve got going,” we say.
We needed a dog to promote our annual pet blessing event last fall. With her calm patient manner, Mercy was the merfect choice. She walked up the aisle with a wag. We gathered beneath the cross for the children’s moment at the front of church.
A dozen small children gathered around her. A toddler kept touching her eye while another tugged her ear. A boy fascinated with her wagging stub tail tried to hold it. She accepted all the clumsy pats as the show of affection they were.
For ten years, Mercy has greeted us. A docile dog of little demands and much affection, she is as easy as sitting outside on a sunny spring day. Her mouth is so soft that she once caught a sparrow. When we told her “drop!” she opened her mouth and the bird flew out unharmed.
This week, her doctor told me that she has cancer. I hung up the phone and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I reached out to friends. In grace, prayer and community, I felt God’s holy hand of comfort. I know I will be sad, but I will not be alone. I will not avoid my grieving. It is proof of love, proof of life.
This might be her last spring. I don’t know if she’ll live to see the pet blessing in the fall. This is the end. We know it. I hope it will be a quiet ending, quiet as a sleeping dog surrounded by the ones who care about her.
I will treasure her as long as she is with us. I will love her after she passes from this life. I will remember her as Merfect, the stray who made a home in my heart, the dog who made my home more welcoming.
Let us care for the wanderers,
the neglected, the abused by cruel hands.
Make our hands kind,
make us the good stewards
you ask us to be.
Above all, let us love as dogs love,
As if each reunion is the best,
as if each homecoming matters.
Have you had a beginning or ending recently? Do you have a story of an animal who welcomes you home? How has grace touched your life this week?