Image courtesy of Jim's Trailside Gallery

In 1993, 2 years after my wife and I were married, we bought a dog.

I figured that when the time came that we would have children, I was going to need all the practice and education I could get to be a new dad.

Being a somewhat immature and dopey man at the time, I thought the best way to start that education was to get a dog. It turns out it wasn’t so dopey. This dog taught me the responsibility of caring and cleaning and feeding something (and someone) besides myself.

He also taught me a lot about unconditional love.

As a Christian studying to be a pastor at the time, I knew about the concept of agape, or unconditional love. I was, of course, deeply in love with my wife (and still am, as well as deeply amazed that she loves me back even after 20 years!).

But until we got a dog, I didn’t have a picture – or more accurately, a face – to go with agape love. Well, that’s not entirely right. The face of Jesus Christ is the ultimate face of unconditional love. But we don’t really know what Jesus looked like (even though there are millions of pictures of Christ).

When I looked into the face of our dog, the love he had for me cemented what agape is to me.

We decided on a black Labrador Retriever. We found him at a pet store in a local mall. He was 8 weeks old. We had his AKC paperwork and also got his bloodline. There were two AKC champions in it.

We named him “Seamus” (pronounced “Shay-mus” – I was surprised by how many people pronounced it “see-mus”).

But right away he was “Moosie.”

Labradors are very easy-going and fun-loving dogs. Of course, they love to retrieve things (hence the name, I suppose) an Moosie loved chasing tennis balls.

His coat was a deep black that shined in the sun. He was healthy and very, very smart. He was house-broken in seven days (thanks to the book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days).

He was also easy-going. Nothing seemed to faze him or get him upset. He didn’t even bark until he was six months old. He loved everyone he met. His first home with us was a third floor apartment on the campus of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

I was about to embark on a year of internship in a congregation and my wife was teaching 6th grade in North St. Louis County. I had a couple of classes during the day, so Moosie was only alone for a couple of hours max each day. When I got out of class, I would take him on a walk through the neighborhood around the seminary.

I was also working part time as a overnight radio announcer at the station on the campus. Next to the station was a big athletic field. Moosie’s favorite activity at that time was going out to field and chase down tennis balls.

The day we brought him home was a very happy day. My wife and I were on our way to 13 years of joy and adventure. I’m planning on several blog posts to tell Moosie’s story. I invite you to tell your own stories in the comments section.

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