Bailey lay in the stable on a bed of straw. It was not necessarily clean straw. There had been a lot of foot traffic through the stable tonight.
It reminded her of that special night nearly 12 years ago when she had first come to the stable. She had heard voices directing to “come all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant.” Nobody was more faithful, joyful or triumphant than a young golden retriever puppy. Or an old one, for that matter.
Tonight the foot traffic was for her. Twelve years ago it had been for The Boy. And the straw had been even less clean that night.
Bailey had arrived at the stable that night just after The Boy had been born. She was greeted by the cattle, who had been relegated to gatekeepers. Apparently they could not stop lowing, thereby continuously waking the poor Baby.
As Bailey entered the stable, she noticed all of the usual patrons. The donkey was standing in his stall. The sheep were pressed against their gate, looking out into the aisle way. Two cats were huddled together on a rafter up above, also overlooking the aisle.
She made her way to the manger that was the center of everybody’s attention. There she first saw The Boy, with no crib for His bed. She had seen human offspring before, but never had she heard what sounded like choirs singing when she had approached one.
The Boy’s Mother presented a strip of cloth to Bailey for her to smell. She wagged her tail and proceeded to The Boy. As she nuzzled His arm, His hand touched her. Instantly a bond had been formed. A bond which has been mutually nurtured for the last 12 years.
As The Boy and Bailey grew up together, they became inseparable. She was like His shadow, and often found herself seated at His right hand. She found this especially rewarding at dinner time. Even though they lived in near poverty, it seemed to Bailey that the scraps of bread were never-ending.
In fact, Bailey never realized that she was a poor dog. She had all she ever wanted in life. She had a Master who loved her, and she loved Him back unconditionally. Through a child’s eyes, His loyalty to her may not have been miraculous. But in her eyes, He walked on water.
Although most days in the past 12 years had found Bailey and The Boy side-by-side, occasionally a day would come when He had to leave her behind. Her heart always sank, as she felt incomplete without Him.
She would sit anxiously awaiting His return, and her blind faith was always rewarded. Although she could not see Him, she knew He would come again. And He always did. And she always greeted Him with the same bark, her tongue dangling and her tail wagging just before she jumped up.
The years had passed blissfully fast. Her days had been filled with riches. As she did not measure time like humans did, she never looked back on her short-comings. She had only happiness in her heart, thanks mostly to The Boy.
Tonight she had returned to the stable where her adventure had begun. The Boy was moving on to the next chapter in His life, and her story was ending. It was time to say goodbye to old friends.
Bailey had already said her tearful farewells with The Boy prior to His departure with His parents. He had asked her to come with them. She felt like she could live forever in His arms. And in fact, during their time together and allegiance to each other, not a hair on her body had ever been harmed.
But she reminded him that the faith and joy of a dog was very demanding. Twelve years was a long time for a dog. Some lived longer, but many lived shorter lives. Hers had been a blessed life, to be certain.
As she lay under the empty manger that at one time held her Boy, surrounded by her longtime furry friends, she closed her eyes. Once again she heard the choirs singing:
“Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care; and take us to Heaven to live with Thee there.”
Dr. Adam Ferguson is a co-owner of Baker Animal Hospital in Cridersville.
If you want to truly understand who “man’s best friend” is, take your dog and take your significant other and lock them both in a very small kennel for an hour. After one hour, when you let them both out, notice which one is happy to see you!
That dangling tongue and wagging tail is the purest form of “unconditional love.” That kind of love can only be found coming from a dog or Jesus Christ. Is it any wonder that “God” spelled backward is “dog”?
In this season of love, remember the gift of unconditional love that God gave us through His Son, Jesus Christ.