When Getting a Puppy is a Spiritual Discipline

December 4, 2023

{Pictured is Henry the dog}

If you would have asked five years ago if we would ever get a dog, I would have laughed and answered with a resounding “No, I take care of six kids. I don’t need to take care of a dog too!” But then the Lord decided to give our family a puppy and I learned that getting a puppy can be a spiritual discipline. Allow me to explain.

Neither Jared nor I grew up with pets or considered ourselves “dog people.” And at the risk of offending all of my dog-loving friends out there, I just never really saw the point of having a dog. To be perfectly honest, when I saw a dog I saw a big time money and energy investment with no valuable return. (Again, my apologies to all the dog-lovers out there!) But then the Lord gave me a daughter who went through cancer and continues to have some unique challenges…and who also loves dogs. When we’ve gone on vacations, Aggie has found other people’s dogs to walk! And so a few years back, I began to wonder if we would eventually get a dog for Aggie (and the other kids too), but I saw it as a far-off event and still kinda hoped it wouldn’t happen.

But then at the end of February in 2023, the Lord made it very clear that now was the time. He moved through the kindness and generosity of a family who wanted to gift us with a puppy and some very providential conversations. (It’s a really cool story and if you want all the details, come find me on a Sunday morning.) At the start of that week, getting a puppy wasn’t even on my radar, and by Friday I was driving to get our puppy, Henry! Believe me when I tell you this was something only the Lord could do!

So, how exactly is this a spiritual discipline? Well, for me saying “yes” to this puppy was saying “yes” to the Lord…yes to the extra work, yes to the time it would take from my day, yes to the money spent. Getting a puppy has been a clear call for me to lay down my life and my preferences to serve my family…and to do it on something that feels completely frivolous to me: a puppy. I’m by nature a very practical person, and there’s nothing “practical” about getting a dog! But there is this beautiful opportunity to throw myself into something that feels frivolous for the simple reason that it delights my family. And so as I get up each morning and take Henry out at 6am, I’ve been surprised to find the joy that comes from serving in this way. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised, because that’s exactly how the Lord works: the path to joy and life is always the path of obedience and service. And sometimes a puppy is just what is needed to remind us of that.

To be clear, I find Henry to be quite loveable and endearing and I’m so glad that he’s ours. (I think I’m well on my way to becoming a “dog person”!) And as I embrace the extra work and chaos that a puppy brings, I offer those sacrifices to the Lord and feel his pleasure in it all. And I get the added joy of seeing how Henry blesses Aggie and the whole family. I love that we serve a God who teaches us through things like a puppy.

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