I have been blessed with some amazing friends over the years. Most have had two legs but one of the best friends I have ever known had four. Last week I had to say goodbye to my canine buddy Hannah.
I remembered a classic spoken recording by iconic actor Walter Brennan. I went back and listened as Brennan voiced the words of Senator George Graham Vest. No truer words could be spoken about the power of a dog to win our hearts. Here is a part of that recording called “A Tribute to a Dog” from Walter Brennan.
The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. A man's dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings, and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.
It was devastating news to hear on May 10, 2011 that our sweet Labrador had a deadly cancer. The diagnosis for Hannah was ominous. Splenic Hemangiosarcoma. It was a horrible sounding disease with an even worse prognosis. Without chemotherapy, the survival predictions were 19 days to 60 days. Six months would be a miracle. The vet showed great compassion as tears welled in my eyes and spilled down my cheek. Her words did not penetrate till later when the shock of this unexpected news had soaked in. Now those comments have shaped my spiritual journey.
“Hannah does not know she is sick. Dogs have no fear of death so they live in the moment. Enjoy each moment.”
Hannah indeed lived in the moment and had a lot of really fabulous days. Treats no longer denied. Being allowed to sniff a little longer at points of interest during the daily walk. The tennis ball tossed in the pool an extra time or two before heading inside. Against all odds she lived 499 days after that dreadful diagnosis.
Even as this insidious foe slowly took away her health, we marveled at how well Hannah did for weeks and weeks. You had to remind yourself that she was sick. She was living in the moment.
I keep thinking about that comment and that philosophy. Dogs have no fear of death so they live in the moment. Isn’t that a blueprint for how followers of Christ should live on a daily basis? I had been a Christian for over thirty years and I had not figured out such a succinct philosophy of living as that simple thought.
Satan would have us live in regret of the past and fear of the future so we will not be content in the moment with our God and those we love. I am learning that part of being content on the journey with Jesus is trusting Him one day at a time. You can’t live in regret of the past. It is forgiven. You can’t live in fear of the future. It is in God’s Hands. You live in the moment, one day at a time, trusting Him for that day.
That was the game plan that I adopted with my friend Hannah for the remainder of her days. Prayerfully, that will be my mindset for my remaining days. Live in the moment. That is all we are guaranteed. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus talked about living in the moment.
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Matthew 6:34, The Message)
I am missing my friend today but I am so grateful for nearly 500 extra days to live in the moment with her. As I remember Hannah’s joyous romp through life I am beginning to agree more and more with the words of Mark Twain.
"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in. "