For the first time in nearly a
dozen years, my wife, Charlotte, and I are
without a dog. We had our beloved dog, Teri, put
to sleep in late November. She had a large,
inoperable tumor in her abdomen. She hadn’t been
eating and was having trouble climbing steps. If
you’ve been attending Maplewood UMC for a while,
you may have heard me preach about her. She was
the dog I called “mongrel” and “freak of
nature.” But we loved that silly dog anyway.
However, she will be our last; we’ve decided we
won’t be getting another dog.
We adopted her in June, 2003, when she was about
five months old. The lady from the shelter told
us she was a Queensland Blue Heeler. Another
name for that breed is Australian Cattle Dog.
She was a mix but that was her dominant breed.
They have a reputation as an intelligent breed
and Teri was no exception. She was also a sweet,
affectionate dog. The people at the shelter had
named her “Pepper” but our daughter, Monica, who
was ten-and-a-half at the time, named her Teri.
No one knows where it came from but that became
In a fairly short time, Teri became my wife,
Charlotte’s dog. She liked the rest of the
family but her first loyalty was to Charlotte.
In dog terms, Charlotte was her “alpha” or pack
leader. She was a great watchdog and she once
barked at my brother-in-law, Rob, who isn’t a
“dog person.” I always thought that was one of
the signs that she was an intelligent dog. I
figured any dog who barked at my brother-in-law
had to be smart.
We miss her, and our house and lives are emptier
without her. When I leave the house, there’s no
dog “herding” me out the door. When I drop food
on the floor, I have to clean it up because
there’s no dog to eat it. And when I have a late
night snack, there’s no dog sitting nearby
mooching. Most of all, there’s no sense of the
unconditional love that comes from a beloved
family pet. A part of our family is gone, never
You may be wondering what this has to do with
the holidays, except perhaps for the animated
Peanuts special “I Want A Dog For Christmas,
Charlie Brown.” Partly, it’s because our dog is
on my mind. But beyond that, she came into our
lives and made them better. She gave us
unconditional love. She left us far too soon.
And all those are things you can say about
He came into the world and changed the lives of
Mary, Joseph, the apostles, and many others, and
I know he’s changed mine. Living for Jesus won’t
necessarily make your life better but it will
give you a new reason for living. Further, it
will give you new life (1 John 5:11-12). It will
change your values and it will change your sense
of your own value (Matt. 10:29-31).
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Jesus died too soon.
If he had lived to my age he would have
repudiated his doctrine.” That isn’t what I mean
when I say he died too soon. What I mean is that
his friends and disciples missed him and wanted
him to stay. Peter didn’t want him to die (Matt.
16:22). After his resurrection, Mary Magdalene
didn’t want him to go either (John 20:17). He
left his work for his disciples to finish (Acts
Most of us know John 3:16 but fewer know 1
John 3:16: “We know love by this, that he laid
down his life for us—and we ought to lay down
our lives for one another.” (NRSV). This is the
kind of unconditional love such as many people
have never experienced. God’s love is
everlasting and unconditional because love is
God’s nature. “Whoever does not love does not
know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8 NRSV).
We may never see Teri or any of our other pets
again. I don’t know whether there will be
animals in Heaven, although it would be a shame
if there weren’t. When we get there it may not
matter. But I do know Jesus will be there and we
will see him (1 John 3:2). He touched numerous
lives while he was on Earth, and he continues to
touch and redeem lives today. This is our hope
and the hope of the world. This is the message
“See what love the Father has given us, that we
should be called children of God; and that is
what we are. . . . Beloved, we are God’s
children now; what we will be has not yet been
revealed. What we do know is this: when he is
revealed, we will be like him, for we will see
him as he is.” (1 John 3:1a, 2 NRSV.)