For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved dogs. For most of my life, I’ve owned and cared for one, but I’ve never expected one of mine ever to do anything heroic. And, they haven’t, except to put up with me and try to please me, even when I’ve been hard to please.
In contrast, two dogs in 2007 news stories, named Velvet and Lassie, have done wonderful things which helped save lives. Velvet was the dog that fell 400 feet down part of Oregon’s Mount Hood on Feb. 18. Matt Bryant, the leader of 8 climbers fell and caused 2 others to fall who were tethered by rope to him, along with his dog Velvet. Why did they fall? Snow being whipped up by 74 mph winds on the 11,239 ft peak had something to do with it. After the fall, they huddled under a tarp for over 24 hrs, called 911 by cell, let their emergency beacon guide rescuers to them and tried to stay warm. Velvet with her thick black coat of fur probably kept the group from getting frostbite and life-threatening hypothermia. Matt reported after their rescue, “We were all just trying to stay warm. Sometimes Velvet was on top of us; sometimes she was at our feet.” He had found this wonderful, wandering dog 2 years earlier when climbing in Nevada.
Lassie is the collie who rescued her owners from their burning house in Anderson, Indiana, on March 7. She regularly slept at the foot of the bed of Robert (81) and Elsie (80) Whitson. Early that morning she licked and nibbled at their hands until Robert awoke and was able to escape with his wife. The fire had probably started from a space heater. I’m guessing Lassie was named for the famous TV dog and she did a great imitation in this incident, except for the ending. Sadly, this Lassie didn’t make it out of the fire alive. Firefighters found her remains under some collapsed roofing. The Whitsons thought she was out, but she wasn’t. Their daughter later said, “The dog saved their lives. Even the firemen said that. Isn’t that amazing?”
Yes, it is amazing! These two dogs remind us why they and their kind are often called “man’s best friend,” with good reason. These lovable creatures, created by God, were able to do just what was needed in a serious crisis. I believe they honored their Creator in these actions and I believe we would all do well to imitate them. How? By trying our best to be a “best friend” to the people around us in crisis. They’re everywhere you look. Not falling off a mountain or about to burn to death in a fire, but they are facing serious crises of many different kinds. Addictions that kill, divorces that distress, unemployments that depress — the list goes on and on. You know the crises because you’ve faced many of them. And, I would guess there was a friend or several who helped you in each case.
A word of hope. An encouraging smile. A few minutes to listen carefully. It may seem like little more than a dog’s lick on the hand, but your friendship could save a life. Jesus’ friendship which cost his life certainly saved ours. “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:15b-16a)
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.