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Joyce and Jack, Her Sheltie Friend
by Pastor Dan White
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by Rev. Dan White

Jack and Joyce. Joyce and Jack. If I wanted to find Jack, I looked for Joyce. If I wanted to find Joyce, I looked for Jack. They were inseparable. Kelly, our daughter, had finished her degree at Samford Unversity in Birmingham, Alabama. She moved back home with us and wanted her own dog. Never mind that we already had a collie and a toy poodle, she wanted her very own pet.

We looked over the pet want ads in the Augusta Chronicle one Saturday morning and began our search that took us into South Carolina and all over the place. We went to PetSmart in Augusta and looked at rescued dogs. She settled for one from PetSmart, but they wouldn’t let us have him because at that time, we did not have a fenced back yard. We were about to give up but had one more place to check out.

I took the map out, found the street, and took off. We drove up into the yard, and it was obvious the people were very poor. I knocked on the door.

A pre-school boy opened the door holding this pitiful emaciated creature who was shaking and afraid. The little boy threw him down, and the dog fell down several steps and hid underneath the steps. The boy’s mother came to the door.

“How much do you want for this little Sheltie?” I asked.

“I need $100 for him. I have the papers. He’s registered.”

Joyce, Kelly, and I huddled to talk about buying this destitute little fellow.

“That dog has problems,” Joyce said. “We need to keep looking. Maybe there will be something in the paper next weekend.”

“But Mom,” Kelly retorted, “I want this one.”

Whenever Kelly wants something, I side with her. Joyce is always out-voted two to one.

“See if she’ll take less,” Joyce instructed. “I can see some vet bills coming. We are going to have to take him straight to the doctor.”

“Will you take $75 for him?” I queried.

The little Sheltie shivered in fright under the steps and wouldn’t come when the lady called for him.

She agreed to take the offer but wouldn’t take our check. We hastily found an ATM and drew out the cash.

The lady was at the door waiting for us upon our return and was holding Jack. She offered us an almost empty box of Meaty Bone dog biscuits to go with the deal. “This is all he eats,” she explained.

We thanked her, took the dog biscuits, the papers, and the dog.

Kelly had her dog.

“We’ve got to take this dog to Dr. Garner today,” Joyce said. “He’s not well.”

Joyce looked through the papers and discovered that little Jack was ten months old. He looked five months old. His growth was stunted due to malnutrition, lack of food, and obvious abuse.

The papers showed that he was first purchased from the pet store in the mall. This store later was forced to close because of maltreatment of their puppies and more than likely, the little Sheltie came from one of those horrid puppy mills you read about.

The man who purchased Jack had returned him to the store. The lady who sold him to us bought him from the store for her little boy. Jack’s first ten months of life were unsettled and not pleasant even for a dog.

Dr. Garner checked him over. “This dog is in bad shape. He’s got about two maybe three days to live. Maybe I can save him. Leave him in the hospital with us for a few days, and let’s see what we can do for him. I need to start an IV right away, put him on vitamins, worm him if he gets stronger, and determine what we can do for him.”

Dr. Garner had been Joyce’s vet for a long, long time. They knew each other well. In fact, he saved Lassie’s life when she couldn’t deliver her litter of puppies. We called him about 3:30 one Sunday morning, and he met us at his office and saved the collie and two of her puppies.

Dr. Garner knew that Joyce is a nurse. Joyce asked him to please give her the IV supplies and let us take him home. He acquiesced.

Dr. Garner said that we needed to buy lamb baby food because the dog had had nothing to eat. He explained that it was like a baby and would have to work his way into eating regular dog food. We made a run to the grocery store and cleaned them out of Gerber lamb.

We got Jack home, and Joyce started the IV immediately. She stayed up with him Saturday and Sunday night. By Monday, he was recovering enough for her to go to work.

Through the weekend and for the next few days, she sat down on the floor with him and literally fed Jack by hand. She smeared the baby food on her finger and placed it in his mouth. He turned away from it again and again. The IV kept him going.

Finally, Joyce had a breakthrough. Jack finally started taking the food - a little at first until he was up to a whole jar.

We took him back to Dr. Garner for a check-up, and he was pleased and optimistic that Joyce’s tender care would pull him through.

Kelly found a job shortly after we bought Jack for her. With the job came independence again, and she moved into an apartment. Of course, the apartment wouldn’t allow pets. After a few months, she decided to move to Charleston to work on her Master’s degree at the Citadel and moved into an apartment that allowed no pets.

Guess who got Jack?

I don’t know if dogs love like humans are capable of loving. But if they are, Jack sure loved Joyce, and Joyce loved him. I told her one day that she loved the dog more than me. And, she gave it right back to me. “He’s less trouble than you are!”

When Joyce found me, I had no home, no car, no job, no money, and worn out clothes, My life had collapsed around me, and I had to move back into my mother’s home in North Augusta, South Carolina, from Pennsylvania. I was 33 years old in August of 1983.

I had plenty of education and degrees, but they were not marketable. Not too many people want to hire someone who majored in Biblical Studies and earned a three-year Master’s degree from seminary.

I knew that car salesmen where given a demo to drive. I needed a car. A car dealership will hire just about anyone who can meet the public well. I was hired at Bob Maddox Dodge to begin work on Labor Day in the middle of a recession with interest rates at 15% on new car loans. It wasn’t the best time to be in the car business. The manager explained that a new salesman had to sell ten cars in a month before they issued him a new demo to drive. I had my ten before the month was up and was issued a brand new Dodge Omni.

Joyce and her mother, Ramona, gave me a new suit of clothes, pants, shirts, and shoes for Christmas.

A small rural church in Jefferson County, Georgia, hired me as their part-time pastor. They were a little leery hiring a car salesman and a divorced preacher. But, they were the greatest! I stayed with them for nine wonderful years. They ministered to me more than I ever ministered to them and helped me put my life back together.

A wealthy member at First Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, where Joyce found me, or should I say where I found Joyce, gave me one of his furnished rental houses rent-free to live in until I could get on my feet.

In the meantime, Joyce nursed me back to emotional and mental health, and still has to give me an IV (so to speak) to keep me going. I am an unending rescue operation for her. We married July 20, 1984, and celebrated 25 years of marriage this year.

I went through another rough patch two and a half years ago. I was fired from my church and almost had a nervous breakdown teaching in an inner-city high school where a ghetto fight broke out in my classroom. I was shoved to the floor by a student. I had to resign my teaching job to keep what little sanity I had left and went to live on Mars for a while.

That’s where Jack comes in again. Jack was her constant companion while I searched for the next launch back to earth. When she filled up the bird feeders, Jack was under her feet. When she watered the flowers, Jack was there. She played “go fetch the ball” in the yard with him. Joyce would tire out before Jack would playing “go fetch.” Every morning, he would go and look and sniff to see what she was wearing. I don’t know how he knew, but he knew when she had on her nurses outfit. When she put that on, he would go and pout under the bed. When she put on her Saturday clothes, he would wag his tail in excitement and bark as if to say, “Momma is going to be home with me today, and we can play.” I think Jack could tell time too. Minutes before Joyce would come home from work, he would go to the door and wait. He was always first to welcome her home. And besides that, he knew it was not long to supper time. He recovered quite well from not eating to eating plenty.

Jack was growing old. The life-expectancy for a Sheltie is 10 to 12 years. Jack was almost 11. He was nearly deaf. His get up and go had got up and went. We noticed he was limping around and wanted to sleep all the time. He had a lump that was going to have to get checked out by the vet. We wondered if he would make it to Christmas.

Now, Joyce leaves for the hospital on Ft. Gordon where she takes care of our soldiers at 6:20 each morning. We let the dogs out to take care of their “business” which they do around the bushes and grass next to our sidewalk. I ride down to the road with her and say good-bye.

On August 24, Joyce accidently ran over her beloved Jack while backing out of the garage. We ran to him. He was breathing. When we got to him, he could hear our voice and feel us petting him. He wagged his tail lifted his head, looked at us, laid down his head, and died. We buried him next to the blueberry bushes in the back yard where he loved to run and play and thanked the Lord for giving us Jack.

The Bible says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17 NIV).

Jack and the pets our good Lord gives us are gifts. They enrich our lives, bring great happiness, provide unconditional love, are always happy to welcome you home from work, and never find anything to argue or complain about.

Do our pet dogs make it to heaven? Many say no. They don’t have a soul. But, I hold out some hope that old Jack will be up there wagging his tail again and waiting at the door to greet us when we arrive.

There are some interesting Bible verses that refer to complete restoration of God’s creation. Consider Romans 8:19-23.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (NIV).

Creation groans and waits for redemption as do we. Our pets are part of the creation that waits for redemption. Will they too be redeemed? I don’t know.

But, I do know that my dear wife has the heart of Christ. Through Adam, God charged humanity to serve and preserve His creation (Genesis 2:15) which includes the little, helpless abused animals and to treat them humanely. Christ exemplified this when he told the story of the lost sheep. The shepherd leaves behind the ninety-nine sheep and hunts for the little lost lamb to bring it back to safety (Matthew 18:12-13).

There are a lot of Christ-like comparisons between Joyce and Jack. We are Christ’s possession. Jack was Joyce’s possession. Christ cares for and helps us because we are His possession. Joyce cared for and nursed Jack to health after the abuse he suffered. Joyce fed Jack. Does not our Lord feed us the Bread of Life? Jack followed Joyce everywhere. As true Christians, we follow our Lord everywhere. In fact, He calls us to “Come, follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

And then, I think of Jack and his relationship to Joyce which is like our relationship to Christ. Jack was loyal to her. Joyce displayed the spirit of Christ to him. He trusted her to never hit him, scold him, threaten him, yell at him, curse him, or starve him. We follow Christ in love, trust, and loyalty. He will never hit, scold, yell at us, curse us or starve us. We are His sheep. Those who have the Spirit of Christ have His Spirit flowing out of them like living water and do not abuse His creatures or others with cursing, yelling, threatening, or hitting. Christ brings us to the safe fold, leads us besides the still waters, and carries us safely on His back to get through danger.

In a way, the Lord gets on the floor with us. He gets down to where we are. This passage in Philippians tells of His amazing sacrifice to come down where we are.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:5-9 NIV).

Joyce brought Jack back from the brink of death. She would never hurt him. That’s what makes the accident even more painful. Jack overcame the abuse through her compassionate nursing. The Lord gives us the victory and new life from the abuse we receive at the hands of mean, manipulative, and cruel people who may have even been family. Christ’s compassion and unconditional love brings us back to life.

No wonder the bond between Joyce and Jack was so strong after what Joyce did for him. And, no wonder the bond between us and the Lord is so strong after what Christ has done and does for us on the cross.

The spirit of Christ living in us will cause great love in our hearts whether it is for a broken-down and broke preacher like me or a poor pitiful creature like Jack.

Those who have the love of Christ in their hearts make this world a better place, make their homes into a rescue mission and a haven of rest, and lift up the fallen and care for the dying.

May the Lord increase His love to all people and all creatures through you and add to this world others who have the heart and love of God in them to care for His creatures and to care for one another.

Find me on facebook at http://facebook.com/pastor.danwhite

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