My daughter started an Instagram account for our dog recently, @fernandothepup. I thought it was a sweet idea, a way to give her sister who just went to college her Fernando fix.

I didn’t realize that dog accounts are actually a big thing on Instagram. Did you know this? She’s had a brand contact her already.

This is a dog God did actually send us because I definitely did not seek him out.

When God Sends You a Dog

One day my youngest said, “Mom, a dog followed me home.”

I was more focused on a strange stray dog, I told her, “You’re fine.”

Then my tenderhearted middle daughter had to go and check on this stray dog. This was the beginning of the end. She and her friend found him laying on the sidewalk panting in the September Houston heat.

She said, “Mom, can we take him to a shelter?”

I looked at this black dog that could be any sort of a mix between a boxer, pitbull, and a hound and I thought, “he will be put to sleep if we take him there.” Houston is notorious for abandoned animals and shelters and fosters are overflowing. It is very difficult to get a dog into a no-kill shelter and most of the rest will put them to sleep after three days.

If I knew a little more about dogs, I probably would have been able to tell right away that this wasn’t a “lost” dog. I am now fairly certain he was dumped because even in his excursions made during the occasional times he has escaped, he has always stayed close to home. He is not dumb; he knows who feeds him.

According to the vet, he was about a year and a half when we took him in. Once he got his energy back, he was very rambunctious, as the vet said, he had “puppy brain.” He would jump on people in excitement, chewed everything up, and was so strong he could pull my girls off their feet when they took him for a walk. I think he got past the point of cute little puppy stage, was too much for someone to handle and so they dumped him, because when we took him in he had scratches all over him, was losing hair in places, and had callouses on his legs where it looked like he had been laying on concrete.

But being unaware at the time, we tried to find his owner. As you can tell, no luck. We tried a local foster organization and had very limited interest. Partly due to the fact that during this time I was trying to keep up with graduate school as well as the activities of three girls and I didn’t have the time to spare to spend afternoons sitting at adoption days.

Two years later, we still have this dog and now my girls are attached.

A Picture of Redemption

My youngest named him “Fernando” and my girls play his theme song for him all the time. I gave him the middle name “Sylvester” and I think it suits him. Fernando means “redeemed” and Sylvester means “strong in spirit.” He is a redeemed puppy, brought in from the wilderness.

This unwanted dog that most people are afraid of on sight has become an object of love for the entire family.

My youngest always says, “Fernando is the best dog, we are so lucky we found him.”

I’ll be honest, “lucky” wasn’t how I was feeling when he was chewing up remotes, ripping and detaching couch cushions from the frame from sitting on them, and when I was spending an hour chasing him through the neighborhood after he escaped while we were trying to load up Girl Scout cookies for a booth.

But sometimes, God sends us what He knows we need . . . Not what we think we want.

Somehow, this dog is part of the plan God has for us.

His story is an illustration of redemption. He was lost and now he is found. He was unwanted and now he is loved. He was alone and now he is part of a family.

Experiencing the Love of God

God illustrates His love and plan for us in many ways: through history, through the cosmos, and, yes, through dogs.

As humans, we were made to be in fellowship, with God and with others. But so often we close ourselves off. It may be because we have been hurt, betrayed, or let down by others in the past. It may be because we have been on the receiving end of abuse and hurtful words. It may also be because of pride and fear; we feel shame, or inadequacy and we fear rejection if someone discovered the real us.

But then there are dogs.

Dogs don’t judge. They are always there for you and they don’t care what you wear, what you’ve accomplished, or the circles you run in. They just want to be with you, to be by your side, and to have your attention. They love, to the best of their ability, unconditionally.

This is the type of love that God intended for us to experience in our families, but more and deeper, because in your family you are truly known. But marriages and families for many have not been that. Instead of building up, there has been tearing down. There has been criticism instead of encouragement. So the lens through which the person sees others and perceives relationships has been fractured, distorted, and darkened. They cannot be a part of a healthy fellowship (of whatever type) because their view of relationships is cracked. Trust is a key element in any type of relationship and their “truster” is broken.

The person’s relationship with God is also affected by this. If they cannot trust and be in true relationship with their fellow man, how can they possibly learn to trust an unseen God. Our relationships here are designed to be a stepping stone to our relationship with God and when those are bad, it blocks a true understanding of the love of the Creator and makes it very difficult for the person to trust even God.

That is where dogs come in.

I am not in any way trying to compare the affection of a dumb animal to the unfathomable love of our Heavenly Father, But I do think that when we are so hurt and broken that we close ourselves off to everyone around us, that the devotion of a dog can slip in, nestle up to us, and help our heart begin to heal. As we return the affection (because love without an object is no love at all), we start on the upward path out of the pit of isolation . . . A path that eventually leads to the True Author of Love.

When we can’t see Him, when we have having a hard time grasping that He does love us, that “high, wide, and deep “ love (Ephesians 3:18) that left heaven and suffered in order to conquer hell for us . . . We have dogs.