You don’t know what is going to happen in a week’s time, and I wish I could explain it to you. You are currently curled up on the couch next to me, head on my lap, sighing your deep contented sighs. I can’t tell you how much I will miss your soft head, your big brown eyes, your loyal companionship.
The thing is, Judy, I wanted to take you with me to Tiberias. I really, really, really did. I can’t imagine cooking a meal without you hovering behind me, waiting for the next piece of carrot or broccoli to ‘accidentally’ fall on the floor. I can’t imagine writing a sermon without you resting your cold nose on my laptop. I can’t imagine watching tv without you vying for prime position on the couch next to me. You have become such a part of my life, such a part of my way of thinking, such a part of my ministry.
We adopted you just under two years ago, with every intention of giving you your forever home. Then, you were a shy, anxious dog, even more frightened of strangers than I was. You had never seen stairs before, so being in a second floor flat was terrifying; you were like Bambi on ice going down the stairs those first couple of weeks. You wailed and sang laments each time you were on your own. I worried maybe you weren’t going to be happy with us. But the night I came in from a meeting to find you curled up happily on the couch looking like you owned the place, I knew you were going to be fine. We were going to be fine.
Gradually you’ve come to see everyone you meet as a potential friend. You happily race up and down stairs now. You still wail at times when you are at home alone, but it’s rarely from panic and more often a frustration at missing out on some fun adventure.
We’ve learned together, haven’t we?
People in the village comment on how much you’ve come out of your shell. Farmers compliment me on having such a well-behaved dog. Friends who don’t really like dogs find themselves aching for a greyhound. I wish I could take credit for how amazing you are, but the truth is that you’re just being you, and you’ve found the confidence to be yourself.
My heart has expanded in the time we’ve had together. I can’t imagine entering this next stage of ministry without you.
But. The more I thought about it, the more I realised I wanted to take you to Tiberias for my comfort and not for yours. I want you there. I want you there because you bring me joy. You make me laugh. You welcome me with enthusiasm whether I’ve been gone for five minutes or five days. But my work is going to require a lot of travel in a climate in which it just isn’t possible to leave you in the car to sleep peacefully while I’m in meetings. I hope to fall into a routine, but that won’t happen quickly, and it’s profoundly unfair to you to cart you from kennels to dogsitter while I go about my work.
You deserve better than that.
So, my dear Judy, you won’t understand next week when we head back up the A9. You won’t understand that we aren’t going on another escapade together, that this is when our lives take separate paths. You won’t understand that I am doing this because I love you, despite the fact that my heart is breaking and not a day has gone by since I made this decision that I haven’t cried and wished things could be different.
I have confidence in you, though, Judy. You know who you are. You now walk bravely into new places, seeing the world in terms of adventure and not threat. You are going to people who will give you the companionship, the love, the care, the stability you need. And because you are going to live with people I know, I hope that this will not be goodbye for us.
You will be in my heart forever. Until we meet again, dear friend…