The year was 2005. Our oldest child, Trey, was going off to Liberty University. We were living in Eustis, Florida, and I was pastor of First Baptist Eustis. I was preaching a sermon series on the Judges of Israel. Soon after dropping Trey off in Lynchburg, Virginia, I had landed on Samson – probably the most well-known Judge of the bible. I discovered one of the meanings of the word is – sunshine. At the same time, we had decided to buy a toy rat terrier to help ease our pain. Now, I’m not saying Trey was replaced with a dog. No one can replace that boy! But I am saying Kellie, Halie and I decided an inside dog might be therapeutic. It was one of the best decisions we’ve made as a family. He lived up to his name in every sense of the word. Samson provided “sunshine” for our family for over thirteen years. As of today, he’s no longer with us. He had to be “put down” due to a terminal disease that reached the point of greatly hindering his quality of life. It was not an easy decision.
Please allow me to share my heart a little bit about old Samson, as this is fresh, maybe you can relate…..
How was he a ray of sunshine?
When we moved to Las Vegas, shortly after getting him he was a major source of comfort for Halie. She was a 9th grader. As you can imagine, transitioning to a huge public school in Las Vegas was not easy. (I will always be proud of how she handled that season of her life.) It was in Vegas that Samson transitioned to sleeping in the same bed with Halie instead of being put in his crate. Translated, living a dog’s life had come to an end! As most dogs do, they love unconditionally and can sense when their people experience discouragement. Need I say more? Halie has her own dog now, but Samson will always be special. We have pictures to prove it! 🙂
When we lived in a rented downstairs condo in midtown-Memphis for a purpose of planting a church he never stopped wagging his nub of a tail. This was one of the most challenging, yet, exciting times in our lives. It was during those years he became a husband and a daddy. Good times…
When tragedy strikes, and it does everyone, he sought comfort. Samson was the gentlest dog I’ve ever had in my life. He seemed to know when things were not right. And he would try to lick us to death or sit beside us until things were calm again. And if there were times of raised voices in our home through the years, he’d quickly go get in his crate. It was as if he was saying, “hey, calm down folks.”
I have counseled church members through the years when their pet died. There’s nothing weird about it, unless it’s prolonged. But any grief that is prolonged and hinders our ability to live our lives, is not healthy. And there are times that seeking help from a professional is necessary. But grief is a natural part of life. Pets are God’s creations. As a matter of fact, here’s a place where scripture speaks to our responsibility. The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.
I know what you may be thinking right now, “I wonder if Pastor Hal thinks he’ll see Samson in Heaven?” I believe I will see the Samson of the bible in heaven. But I know that’s not what you may be thinking – you’re thinking my dog, Samson. Well, that’s a subject/post for another day. In the meantime, I find comfort in what Billy Graham said when asked if he thought his dog would be in heaven…
“God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven, and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he’ll be there.”
Samson, a mighty dog I will never forget and always be grateful to God for during this season of my family’s life.
Until next time….