A few years ago, my dad suffered a heart attack. He’s had various health and heart issues since his early 40s, but as he was recovering from this episode, we decided that when he was better, we’d get him a dog.
My dad had always wanted a dog but the circumstances hadn’t been right. But now, with regular gentle exercise being encouraged by his cardiologist, the timing seemed perfect.
And so the search for the ‘right’ dog began.
Dad wanted what he called a ‘proper dog’, a Labrador or a Retriever and so finally after a few months of careful research, we settled on the idea of a Labradoodle. We were told they had the gentle nature of a Lab but the intelligence and energy of a poodle…in other words, a dog that wouldn’t just sit lazily at your feet, but a dog who would act as a regular daily alarm clock to get out walking.
We found a reputable breeder, who currently had 6 new puppies to sell and then, we made our first rookie error.
They say you should never let a puppy pick you. The puppy that picks you (rather than you selecting from the pack) is likely to be the cheekiest, most inquisitive of the bunch. But, from under a pile of steaming, stinky, milky little bodies, a little black nose popped out and on spindly legs wobbled his way towards us. Within minutes, he was chewing fingers and licking faces.
This was the one. This was our ‘Samson’. He picked us.
After my parents took him home, my dad created a daily training and walking schedule and as Samson grew and grew and grew, he got attention and compliments wherever he went.
Isn’t he lovely?
What a beautiful coat.
He’s so big.
For my dad, a seasoned and enthusiastic evangelist, Samson was a gift from heaven.
Every dog walker who stopped to admire Dad’s rapidly growing puppy, invariably ended up in a conversation about the meaning of life and how to get to eternity.
But it was more than just conversation, dad was also getting to see the rewards of those chats.
A chap Dad and Samson met on a country lane, turned out to also be a Christian who was looking for a church. He’s now happily settled in my parents’ congregation.
Another lady they met as part of their daily walking travels, had big questions about life. As a result of this conversation, she became a friend to the family, became a Christian and was just recently baptised.
Another lady who replied to an online advert (dad was looking for a part time dog walker) went to the house to meet my parents (and the dog) and she too ended up attending their church.
And that’s not to mention the countless other conversations and ‘seeds sown’ that walking Samson each day, led to.
By the time Samson had turned 3, he had grown pretty big (bigger than anyone had realised he would) and his exercise needs and energy levels seemed to be increasing with age, not decreasing.
When my dad was diagnosed with a neurological condition and later had another heart attack, we started to realise (reluctantly) that Samson might have to be re-homed. We just couldn’t give him the exercise he needed every day. For me, having helped pick him when he was just 6 weeks old, this was particularly gut wrenching.
I knew it was the right thing to do, but it was still very sad. We were determined to find a great new home for him though and we prayed that somehow, we’d just ‘know’ when we met the right family for our giant, loveable, evangelist dog.
One morning, it just simply hit us.
Why hadn’t we thought of this solution before?
My dad’s brother lives on a huge, sprawling farm in Northumbria, he’s a dog lover and has trained dogs all of his life. A few phone calls and lots of texted photos of Samson (crafted to look incredibly endearing) later, and Sam, the wonder dog had a new home.
Just after Christmas, I took him on the 5 hour drive up to the farm, stopping periodically at different service stations to fluff his (huge) head and have a cry. But as I drove, I thought too about the last 3 years.
It looked (to an outsider) that we’d made the wrong choice in getting such a high energy dog, that Sam was just the wrong fit for our family.
But then I began to think about all the good that had occurred because of his high energy and his need for multiple daily walks, all the people my dad had met on their adventures, all the people who’d heard more about Jesus, just because they’d stopped to admire Samson’s glossy coat and impressive stature.
And I knew absolutely that Samson was the right dog at the right time for the right season.
He wasn’t a mistake.
He was completely perfect for all the lives that were about to be impacted.
Ecclesiastes 3 says, ‘to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted’.
Samson was completely right for the season. But now as a family, we were moving into a different season.
And to me, it continues to serve as a huge life reminder, that everything in our lives has a purpose. We tend to think that jobs and houses and dogs and sometimes even important relationships are ‘forever’. When we lose them, we wonder why, we might feel like we’ve failed, but maybe God never intended us to have them forever.
Maybe he just loaned those things to us, for a specific time and a specific purpose?
Everything has a time and a purpose and a season.
Understanding when a season is ending (and doing our best to let go of an old one) is often the key to moving to the next one.
**postscript Samson loves farm life. He’s been adopted by my young cousin and has fields to run around in and rabbits to chase. Couldn’t have asked for a better home.