“A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?’” (John 4:7-10).
A dark cloud hung over the whole morning despite the bright sunshine of the September day. The family was busy getting started in their daily routines. The normal activity around me only accentuated the distasteful task facing me. Never before had I had to put down a dog. But the time had come.
In the fall of 1997, I was pastoring in northeast Tennessee. Our sheltie dog Peaches was 12 years old and ailing from her elegant muzzle to the tip of her lush bushy tail. Pure-bred and well-behaved, she was truly a family pet to Marcia and me and our three kids. She was already 2 years old when we obtained her from a single lady with health issues who could no longer care for her. We did not choose Peaches; her owner chose us from several people who answered her newspaper ad for a free pet.
It was obvious to me that fall morning, however, that Peaches was suffering. Marcia soon picked up on my thoughts, and I confided to her, “I’m taking her down to Sam this morning.” She agreed it was the only humane course of action.
A young man, Sam had not been practicing veterinary medicine for very long. He and his wife were members of the church I pastored. Sam was always friendly; however, he rarely attended church. I had spoken to him about his lack of attendance when I first met him at a church dinner.
Actually I had not yet officially become pastor when the dinner took place. In fact, the meal was for the purpose of letting church members meet me and Marcia before I preached a trial sermon the next day. We found ourselves sitting across from Sam and his wife. They were both quite cordial, and somehow they revealed that Sam did not frequent the church often.
“Well Sam,” I began gingerly, acutely aware of my outsider status and mustering all the mercy I could, “as a friend, I’d encourage you to set the example for your family by getting involved in church as Christ commands.” Sam smiled and meekly agreed. Nevertheless, his church attendance remained sporadic.
Only later would he confide to me how offended he was by this unknown preacher lecturing him on his spiritual responsibilities.
It was approximately a year later that I walked into the veterinary clinic with Peaches on a leash. Explaining that this visit was terminal for our beloved pet, I asked if Sam, not his partner, could handle it. Somehow the deed seemed a little less grievous that way.
Sam entered the examining room shortly after I removed the leash from Peaches’s neck for the last time. My eyes were wet; my spirit was dour. “What’s wrong with her, Bill?” Sam asked. “Everything,” I informed him sadly.
Sensing my anguish, Sam reminded me gently of the necessity of this action. “Dogs aren’t like people,” he said with obvious sympathy. “They are always puppies at heart and cannot understand why they can’t run, jump, and play when they are old.”
He let me hold Peaches while he put her permanently to sleep. Again, with tears in my eyes, I asked Sam which way back to the front desk to pay. “You don’t owe me anything, Pastor.” I protested, but he was insistent. Thanking him and shaking his hand, I left.
The next Sunday Sam was at church, this time shaking my hand after the service, and once again sympathizing with our loss. He became quite active in the church and is a good friend to this day. I’m glad God gave me the opportunity of letting Sam serve me at a difficult time.
“The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, ‘Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’” (John 4:28).