Today was a tough day for me. I had to make the choice to put Mocha, my 18-year old pound puppy, to sleep. Mocha was very dear to me and epitomized much of what the Bible speaks about. I’d like to share some of my fondest memories of Mocha and show you how she led a Biblical life. She led a life that many of us should strive to live. As a work to gain salvation? No. But out of love for a Savior who is even more loyal than a dog that lived longer than my marriage.
It was six months after I had gotten married. When my now ex-wife and first got Mocha, we were walking through the pound and a fresh batch of dogs had just arrived. We looked online about how to choose the best dog. All the dogs in the pound were barking loudly or running around in their cages.
All dogs except one.
We took Mocha out to the play yard and did all the tricks that the online article told us to do. We pulled on her tail. We poked her. We tried looking at her teeth. We threw balls and rolled around on the ground with her. In the end, when she didn’t bark or act up, we said that she was the dog for us. We picked her, took her home, and realized something. It was all an act. She barked at every car (especially the UPS truck) and ran wildly throughout the neighborhood, sometimes causing us to run wildly after her screaming like idiots hoping we hadn’t made a mistake and she would bite someone.
But we were in love with her.
After we were trained on how to handle a dog, we found a park that people would take their dogs. After a few years of taking Mocha there, my ex and I were pregnant with our first child. At about eight or nine months, we were walking Mocha to the park and a couple of pit bull puppies, who absolutely adored us, came running toward us. These dogs had a habit of jumping to say hello. If they would have jumped on my ex, it could have hurt her or the baby. Somehow, Mocha knew this and intercepted the dogs and prevented them from jumping up on her. Mocha was staring at a definite David and Goliath scenario. These two puppies were just as big as her and much more muscular, yet she stopped them from hurting the pregnant woman.
Imagine our world if we spent the day looking for ways to stand up for others. What would that world look like? Going to work may not be such a chore. Coming home to your family may not be so stressful. There would be no road rage, no unscrupulous business practices, no bitterness. Mocha understood that. She lived that. She lived to show me that.
The next story comes after my daughter was born. My wife was in the kitchen and I was in the bathroom. Our daughter was on the floor, under 6 months old. Mocha was upstairs sleeping on the bed. A knock came at the door. Mocha was immediately stirred into action. She bolted down the stairs and stood over my daughter, barking at the door with such a mean, angry growl that the most hardened criminal would be scared. Once we opened the door and she saw that it was my daughter’s grandma, she immediately stopped barking and went back upstairs to sleep.
I can only imagine if it had been someone there to hurt us. She would have tried to tear them limb from limb. But what does the Bible say about this behavior? If we look at Isaiah 1:17, we find that we are called to “do good, seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice….” Mocha lived that verse as well. She was standing up for those who could not stand up for themselves. My daughter could only move around like a broken Weeble. Mocha knew that and knew that she had to be the one to protect her.
Fast forward some years later. By now, Mocha is about 10 years old and I am about to have surgery on my back for some disc issues. Just before my surgery, I was barely able to move without the use of Vicodin. I spent 3-4 times a day in the Jacuzzi tub that we had in our master bathroom in order to dull the pain enough so I could sleep. I was in a La-Z-Boy chair for hours on end before my surgery and just after it. Mocha knew that I couldn’t move from my spot. She would come over to the chair I was sitting in, sit next to me, and place her paw on top of my hand on the arm rest. She would hold that posture all day. And while she was holding my hand, she would look me directly in the eyes. She wanted me to know that she was there for me. She was present.
Being divorced, I find that the biggest thing I miss about being married was having someone always present. And I, regrettably, was not that great at being present. But Mocha taught me “presence.” This is one of the central themes of the Bible. When Israel was building the temple and tabernacle, the Lord was present in those most Holy of places. When Jesus came to earth, that showed us the greatest example of presence. Jesus walked among His own people. We rejected Him and He STILL loved us! And even AFTER He laid His life down, the Holy Spirit came to be continually present with us.
We humans, when we think of presence, we mistake that for loyalty. Loyalty gets a bad rap because we tend to believe that loyalty means accepting everything, good or bad. That is wrong. Loyalty, or in this case, presence, means standing with the other person through the times they are both good and bad. We don’t have to accept the bad stuff that they do, but be need to be there to explain to them why it is bad and to help them come back to doing the right thing. Mocha was present, through my good and bad times. She was always there for me and loved me back into doing the right thing.
And this brings me back to my final fond memory of her. The lowest point of my existence was when I was going through my divorce. I was hurt so deeply. I spent nights alone in my bed before we were separated and Mocha would jump up in the bed, lie next to me, and lick my face or my arm. She knew I was craving love. She knew I needed someone to heal my heart. And she chose to be that “person.”
I would find myself on my face, in tears for 10-12 hours sometimes and she would lie there on the floor next to me. And when I finally found myself “cried out,” she would move in, nuzzle my arm or my face, and lick me.
She showed me unconditional love. Even in times when I couldn’t love her back, she showed me love. That is another central theme of the Bible. God shows us that love even when we are unlovable. He gives us everything even when we give Him nothing. He adores us even when we are at our ugliest and least loving.
So, Mocha, thank you for sharing the examples of the Bible without having to preach to me. You simply lived out the Bible in quiet (and sometimes very loud barking when UPS was near) existence. You blessed me so immensely that I don’t even know how to say “thank you.”
I’ll miss you, Mocha.