Dena Johnson MartinDena Johnson is a former single mom to three amazing kids: Blake, Cole, and Cassie and wife to her high school friend, Roy. She strives to follow Christ each day and to lead her children to do the same. She delights in taking the every day experiences of life and turning them into biblical lessons for her children. Dena's daily prayer is simple: Lord, my life is yours. Live through me. Love through me. Parent through me. Let me decrease that you might increase. Dena is the founder of Dena Johnson Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find beauty through the brokenness of this life. Her heart's desire is to use her own pain to point others to the power of God who redeems every hurt, every pain. You can contact Dena at Dena@denajohnson.com. You can also find her blog at Dena Johnson Ministries.
- 2018 Jul 18
Ten years ago, my kids were begging for a dog. It was right after I learned of my husband’s affair but long before we separated. I somehow convinced my ex-husband to let the kids have a puppy.
After searching for the perfect puppy, I settled on a Bichon Frise. The breed is small, good with kids, doesn’t shed, and is hypoallergenic.
Buddy was this tiny little ball of fur when I got him. The grass was taller than he was, so he almost hopped as he ran across the yard. He was playful and the kids fell madly in love with him.
As life happened, he was our constant companion. He was the laughter in a horrible time of life. He was the joy that put smiles on my kids’ faces. He was the heart in a home that was broken and hurting.
For the last ten years, Buddy Jack has been the little white bundle of energy running around the house, barking at everything that went by outside. He had a love for the Aflac ducks that were all over our house. He would fight the bigger dogs—and win—if they touched his duck. He loved to play fetch and dance and shake hands and pee in my house (not a good thing). For ten years, he was a light in our lives.
In the last few months, Buddy figured out how to escape from our fence. We tried everything to keep him in, but no matter how many times we barricaded him in the backyard, he found a way to get out. He was pretty good, never wandering far and always coming back. We would hear the scratching at the door and we always let him back in the house.
Last Tuesday night was no different. I let him outside about 9:00 pm. He managed to slip out of the fence, and I found him in the front yard a little while later. I tried to coax him into the house for the night, and his stubborn streak came out. I couldn’t get him to come into the house. I couldn’t bribe him with a ride in the car. He was determined to stay outside a little longer.
After a while, I gave up. I left the garage door open enough that he could get into the garage, and I went to bed expecting him to be scratching at the door within an hour.
But the scratching at the door never came.
When I woke up the next morning, I realized Buddy was nowhere to be found. I began to look for him, up and down the streets as I took my morning walk. I looked in the backyards of my neighbors. I looked in the ditch to see if he had been hit by a car.
But there was no sign of my sweet Buddy Jack.
I continued to hold out hope, posting pictures on Facebook and calling neighbors and friends. I posted on every social media app I could find. I called the local animal shelter. I posted pictures around the neighborhood. I texted pictures to everyone I knew in the surrounding neighborhoods.
But my Buddy is still missing.
Telling my oldest son was the hardest. He and Buddy were always tight. Buddy had his favorites, and his favorites were Blake and me. Blake would always take Buddy’s ear and rub it between two of his fingers, much like he used to do to soothe himself to sleep with his favorite stuffed animal as a toddler. If Buddy wasn’t on my bed, he was curled up next to Blake.
I still don’t know what happened to Buddy, but I suspect that a wild animal got him. Coyotes have been seen in the area and have been known to grab small, unsuspecting dogs and cats. I keep hoping someone grabbed him and he will eventually get out and find his way home. But after a week, I’m beginning to believe the worse.
And my heart is broken.
I have cried many tears over the last week, often crying myself to sleep at night. I look around at all the reminders of our sweet Buddy, the one who carried us through the hardest season of our lives. I watch our other two dogs play, and I think how Buddy should be curled up at my feet watching the chaos. I see the signs still posted in the neighborhood and I hope and pray he will come home.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve grieved the loss of something or someone special. Maybe, like me, you’ve even wondered how in the world you could be so broken-hearted over an animal.
But I am.
When I started writing, I hoped maybe I’d draw some wonderful lesson from this story.
How we need to be so cautious about staying in the safety of the fence God provides.
How God mourns when one of His beloved wanders from the safety of His care.
How God provides companions to help us through the darkest seasons of life.
How God’s love is found in unexpected places like an animal.
The truth is, my heart is too broken to find the spiritual lessons. I miss my little Buddy…and so do my kids. I know God will heal our hearts. I know He has given us incredible memories of this little nuisance that stole our hearts. I know He will carry us through this season just as He has carried us through so many others.
But for now, I grief. The tears flow freely and I long to see him chase the Aflac duck one more time. I long to watch him dance for food or shake for a treat. I long to see him stick his head out the sunroof as we drive down the street. I long for one more day to love on him…for him to love on me.
I may have given him a home for ten years, but he gave us so much more.
We love you, Buddy Jack!