A Deeply Broken Heart Can Lead to the Development of Deeper Compassion

Cash was our “three legged bandit” we adopted from the local animal shelter. When we got him he still had stitches where a back leg had been amputated. He had recently been rescued from his previous owners who paid no attention to his injured, useless, infected leg.

Regardless of any hardships he had gone through, there was not much he was afraid of. In fact, he brought a sense of security to our other rescue, Jolie. While they had their share of scuffles, there was a bond between them. Jolie felt safe with him, even enough to go outside to potty and play when it was thundering and lightning!

Cash had a bark that would make others afraid or uncomfortable, but he was actually a big ol’ cuddle bug. He always made his rounds, some nights going to our son’s room to be with him, some nights cuddling next to me on the couch, then some nights cuddling next to his favorite person, his mama. I am certain inside that doggie brain of his he thought my wife was his girl and not mine. Whenever she and I would hug or smooch, Cash would run up, “Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!” with his tail a-wagging, as he would shove himself in between us, as if to say, “This is my girl, bucko!”

Make no mistake, he could be a pain in the butt, but I loved that crazy dog. Far more than I realized. He often made me laugh. I was convinced he had watched a lot of romance movies, because he would look a person in the eyes, hold the gaze, and slowly draw near to give doggie kisses.

We had him for about two years when something dreadful happened, and we had to make the heart wrenching decision to put him down. The day arrived when we would take him to the vet. On the way there we stopped by Burger King and got him a couple of sandwiches. When we arrived at the clinic he was all excited. To him, he thought he was going to simply get a thermometer put in his rear, a shot, a bunch of treats, then go home. Just as plenty of times before. Little did he realize the very one he trusted most was bringing him to his death.

He was so excited they had to give him a tranquilizer to calm him down.  My family and I loved on him while we still could. Soon the tranquilizer began kicking in, so the vet began euthanasia. Cash began shaking and I knew he was afraid. I got in front of him as he laid there. As I petted him, I told him, “It’s okay, buddy, it’s okay.” There was a tear coming down from his eye. He was being betrayed by the very one who loved him so much. I just kept petting him and speaking to him as he slipped away.

I never had my heart break in such a manner. For the next several months I would have periods of crying, as I missed Cash terribly. I was very angry about this situation. “Was it not bad enough to have my heart ripped out by those I sought to minister to?” I cried out to the Lord. “Why did this have to happen? He still had a lot of puppy in him!” The whole situation was unfair, and I held onto some resentment for quite some time, I confess.

There were those who did not understand. To them, Cash was “just a dog.” But to me he was so much more. It was not important they did not understand; however, my heart was broken into a thousand pieces. Ah, but this was a lesson in compassion to be learned. There are those around me and afar who suffer loss; some of these losses might appear trivial, but are devastating to them, nevertheless. I do not need to understand, I simply need to empathize. As their heart breaks, I am to remember the anguish of my own heart breaking. I might not understand why they are taking a loss so badly, but their pain is very real and far from being trivial.

The strange thing about compassion and empathy is that we must experience suffering and heartache if we would have these qualities developed in our lives. Pain and heartache hurt. Sometimes to the very core of our being. While we do not always understand, these do serve a greater purpose, a greater good, although we often wonder how any good can come out of pain.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

If Our Dogs Were to Sing Some Johnny Cash

I love animals—especially doggies! I believe there is truth in “dogs are a man’s best friend.” I also believe a person who is cruel to animals (or people) is not worth trusting.

Several years ago our family adopted a black lab mix named Jolie. A couple years later we adopted a black pit mix who had been neglected and mistreated. His name was Cash. One day my wife had mentioned Jolie and Cash, and my mind just went running…. Imagine if our pups were country legends. You might hear, “Doggie Kennel Blues” (to the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues”):

“Hello, we’re Jolie and Cash.”

(music starts playing)

We hear the squirrels a-ramblin’,
They’re running ’round the bend,
We ain’t seen the sunshine
Since we don’t know when.
We’re stuck in doggie kennels,
Time keeps draggin’ on.
But we hear those critters running
All over on our lawn.

When we were but just puppies,
Our mama told us dogs,
“Always be good pups,
Don’t ever eat like hogs,”
But we bit Mom in the kitchen,
‘Cause we thought she had pie.
She threw us in the kennel –
We give our sad pup eyes. (Phooey!)

We bet our peoples eatin’
On their nice clean plates —
Fried chicken or grilled pork chops,
Or nice big juicy steaks.
Well we know we had it coming,
We know we can’t be free.
But our peoples eatin’ good stuff,
And that’s what tortures we!

Well if they free us from these kennels,
If that big back yard was ours,
We bet we’d run all over awhile —
We’d run around for hours
Far from doggie kennels,
That’s where we want to stay.
And we’d let those outside breezes
Blow our blues away. 🙂

After writing “Doggie Kennel Blues” a friend of mine told me I should do “Dogs In Black” (instead of “Man In Black”). So I did. And just as Man In Black deals with the struggles of mankind, I thought it fitting that Dogs In Black deal with the struggles of animals (after all, both of our dogs were rescued and adopted through an animal shelter). This is for fellow animal lovers and critters everywhere.

Dogs In Black

Well, you just might wonder why our furs are black
Why you never see bright colors on our backs
And why do our appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well, there’s a reason for the fur that we have on.

We wear the black for the dogs who are beaten down
And all those forgotten all across our town
For all those in the shelters, neglected, or abused
Who want to be loved but are pushed off and refused.

We wear black for those who’ve not heard said
“I love you” from whom they’re loved and fed
For cats and dogs without people who they can call their own
For those without a place to call their home.

Well, some are doing fine, we do declare
Living with their people without a care
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there oughta be some dogs in black.

We wear it for the ones who have the mange,
And all the ones abandoned in places strange.
We wear the black for mourning for the pups that could have been
Each week we lose some because of cruel men.

And we wear it for the many who have died
Believing someone cared when e’re they cried
We wear it for another thousand who are chained outside —
Hot or freezing, no concern if they died.

Well, there’s things that never will be right, we know
Critters need lovin’ everywhere you go
But until people start to care and treat their critters right
You will never see us wear furs of white.

Ah, we’d love to have steaks and bones everyday
And tell cats and dogs that all’s okay.
But we’ll try to carry off a little darkness on our backs.
Til things are better, we’re the dogs in black.

“A righteous man cares about his animal’s health, but even the merciful acts of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10 (HCSB)