Our family loves pets, and through the years we have had some memorable dogs, cats, ducks, turtles and a few fish. We never experienced the “joys” of owning rabbits, gerbils, parrots, possum or racoon! When we get together for holidays and special birthdays or ball games the conversation sometimes comes around to discussing and laughing about a particular pet who impacted us, usually in a positive way but occasionally in a negative way. We will all attest to the fact a few of our pets have taught us spiritual lessons which came unexpectedly. One event in the life of Taffy was especially meaningful.
Taffy was a beautiful, female Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog) whom we bought for daughter Mary Kay from the daughter of our veterinarian in El Dorado. Because the registered name of the mother of our puppy was Candy, Mary Kay chose to name her “Taffy” because her coat was a lovely golden color (and we were partial to Silver Dollar City taffy). Taffy was such a cute and playful puppy we fell in love with her at first sight! Mary Kay, who was 10 at the time had wanted a Sheltie, and we were pleased to declare Taffy as “Mary Kay’s dog.” (which meant she had to feed and clean up after this small puppy)! Our back yard was large and fenced, which made a perfect playground for an active puppy who loved to run (and herd). None of our pets were “inside pets”, but we had a large basement we used for shelter during stormy or severely cold weather.
Taffy grew to adult size within a year, but we had her spayed to avoid the problems associated with breeding and puppy care. Because she was so active and playful she didn’t have the problems of weight gain and lethargy some spayed females experience. Two characteristics of Taffy were her high-pitched bark (I called it a yap), which she did all too frequently for me, and a characteristic twirling motion she performed when she was excited or saw Mary Kay after a short absence. Little did we know these peculiar characteristics would play a critical role in Taffy’s future.
When Taffy was approximately 3 years old we discovered her missing one day. It was not unusual for her to be outside the fence, because the yard was large and occasionally one of the gates would be left open, and she would run into the neighborhood. In all other instances Taffy would return home within an hour or so following her neighborly exploration. This time she didn’t return. We thoroughly searched the entire neighborhood until dark, and hoped when daylight came someone would find her and bring her home. Her collar had all the necessary information to contact us. That night we all prayed for her safe return, and within our little prayer circle there were a few tears shed thinking she might be hurt or worse.
Days led to weeks of no word concerning Taffy, and I must say I gave up ever seeing Taffy again. I had lost special dogs in the past, and it was easier for me emotionally to assume they were dead rather than continue hoping for a return. Cathy, Mary Kay and Ginny continued to pray for her at every meal and during evening prayers, and I certainly didn’t discourage them or make them think I didn’t also miss Taffy.
About one year from the date of Taffy’s disappearance I received a call at my office on a Saturday morning from a lady who had been a surgical patient in the past. At the beginning of the conversation she said, “I know where your dog is!” I said, “You know where our Sheltie is?” without thinking that was the only dog we had missing! She said a woman friend of hers had found the dog a year ago and decided to keep her despite knowing the dog belonged to us. I knew the lady who supposedly had our dog, because she had also been a surgical patient. I asked why she was just now letting me know since she had known about it for so long. Her answer was, “I felt bad knowing where your dog was, and I got into an argument with the lady and decided to get her into trouble!” I thanked the caller for her information.
I looked up the address of the alleged dog kidnapper in our office files and called home to report this startling news. I picked up the girls, and we very anxiously drove to the address of the lady, which was several miles away. Upon arrival we found a small, poorly kept single-dwelling home with a fenced backyard, and evidence there had been a recent fire at the residence with significant damage. There was no one at home so we went to the corner of the fence and Mary Kay began calling Taffy’s name. Within seconds a bedraggled-looking Sheltie ran around the house in response to the call. We couldn’t be sure this was Taffy because this dog was thin, her coat was more dull in color and she seemed more lethargic than our Taffy. When she spotted Mary Kay she began “yapping” and twirling in an unmistakable fashion, and we immediately knew this was our Taffy! We were all so excited to have found our dog, and Taffy kept up her yapping and twirling in celebration with us of her reunion with her family.
Within a few minutes a car drove into the driveway, and I immediately recognized the lady at the wheel. On exiting the car she was crying with tears and kept saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” When she calmed down she confessed she knew Taffy was ours, but when she found her roaming in her neighborhood she had just lost her own dog and believed we could “easily get another pet.” Because we were so glad to have found Taffy we did not consider pressing any charges against her. We told her we forgave her and then had a prayer with her concerning the fire damage to her home and belongings. Our attitude toward her later opened a door to share Christ and His forgiveness of her, and she prayed for forgiveness of her sins to be saved.
The following week we took Taffy to the veterinarian, and she was found to have heart worms because of her poor care. She almost didn’t survive the treatment, but began improving to become a healthy and happy Taffy once again. The above photograph was taken about a year after the ordeal. We all learned some very important life lessons concerning our yapping, twirling Taffy. Forgive quickly those who have harmed you; never give up hoping when events seem to indicate otherwise; and by all means pray without ceasing! (I Thess. 5:17)