Lessons From a Dog Named Hope

by Diana C. Derringer

The dog looked at the bars on her cage. She looked at the other dogs. Then she looked for a way out. When she found it, away she went as fast as her little legs would go! Out of the building, across the field, into a lawn, and up to a door she flew. She didn’t have long to wait until the door opened.

“Well, what have we here?” said Terry. “Are you hungry little lady? If you are, you came to the right place. Wait here. I’ll be right back.” She didn’t understand all Terry said, but she waited. She liked his voice and the way he ruffled the fur on her back when he talked.

Uh-oh, she thought when Terry opened the door. There he stood with a whole crew of people. Just as she started to run, those men started talking and laughing and rubbing her like she was a long-lost friend. She never felt such love in all her short life. Hmmm, I could get used to this. After they fed her, she roamed the field next door. Before long, though, her stomach started to rumble. I wonder what will happen if I go back?

So she went back again … and adog-named-hopegain … and again.

Finally they let her in their big house. They bathed her and arranged medical care. They gave her a bed, her own food dish, and let her roam almost anywhere she wanted to go except the kitchen. That’s okay. As long as they feed me, who cares?

She heard the men talking about why they lived there. All had made bad choices. They took drugs they weren’t supposed to have. Some had gone to jail. This place was supposed to help them make better choices. She liked one of their choices. They named her Hope. They discussed other names, like Rehab. Yuck, what kind of name is Rehab? Since these guys take care of me, I’d better see what I can do to take care of them.

So Hope’s work began. When new men arrived, Hope made them feel welcome. She didn’t rush them but walked near them or brushed against them just to say “hello.” When the men had a bad day, Hope stayed close, nudging them with her nose, smacking them with her paws, and licking them until they started feeling better. She ate out of everyone’s hands. Hope didn’t want anyone to feel left out. After all, she loved her men and wanted them to get better.

When the men talked among themselves, Hope listened. Sometimes they talked about her. They said she loved them, even when they were in a bad mood, and didn’t give up on them. They said she found a better way of life and was trying to help them find a better way to live too.

Hope was so proud of her men. Nothing pleased her more than knowing she helped them the same way they helped her.

Hope’s Hints

So, what can we humans learn from this little mongrel’s life?

  • First, like Hope, find the right home. Don’t remain imprisoned by past mistakes. Seek instead a life with eternal purpose.
  • Practice unconditional love. In spite of the questionable backgrounds of her men, Hope loved them and wanted the best for them. When tempted to criticize the mistakes of others, let’s remember God loves them no less than he loves us.
  • Look beyond what is to what can be. Hope used a mixture of affection and correction to guide her men to a better future. Sometimes a pat on the back may be all that’s required. At other times, we must use firmness in our accountability to one another.
  • Don’t give up. As the men went about their daily routines, Hope remained close by. She walked with them and nudged them along the way. Some faltered, but she remained. We all have days when we want to throw up our hands and throw in the towel. Don’t. We never know when a breakthrough may come.
  • Take breaks. Occasionally Hope headed to her bed for a nice rest. If we don’t keep our batteries charged, we’re no good to ourselves or anyone else.
  • Allow others to learn from our experiences, both good and bad. The men saw a change in Hope and wanted the same for themselves. Our stories may be our strongest tools. If people see a difference in our lives, they’re more open to the message we share.

Let’s offer our world a message of hope.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him” (Romans 15:13 NIV).