Stephanie is my sister. The puppy (pictured above) is her now 7 year old dog Togo. This is his story.
Togo is a yellow lab, pure bred for one specific purpose, to assist a blind person in a way no other animal can. Guide Dogs for the Blind, as part of their puppy raising program, gives individuals a puppy at just 8 weeks, over the course of the following year, puppy raisers are to teach the dogs basic obedience and general training for guide dog work. After those 12 months the dogs are returned to the organization for their next phase of training. After their advanced training, they are then paired with with a blind person and begin the next phase of training. If they pass all the courses with absolutely no problems, they are graduated to fully fledged guide dog work and the life of a blind person is literally placed in the paws of that dog. Needless to say, the requirements and standards for the pooch are high! At any time, for any reason, a dog can be “career changed”, meaning the dog no longer qualifies to be a guide dog but is still suitable for other work, such as search and rescue, drug detection, or therapy jobs.
Toward the beginning of the second phase of training, Togo was career changed. At this point, Guide Dogs for the Blind has two options. Find a new job for the dog, or their primary option, allow the puppy raiser to keep the dog. Free and clear, no strings attached, the organization gives the raiser a fully pedigreed dog that has been vaccinated, trained not to bark, chase balls, take food from anybody, and only eat, relieve, lay down, get up, and sit on command and only on command.
The day Stephanie got to take Togo home for good is most likely the third best day of her life. The first being the day our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, saved her from her sins. The second being, the day she married her longtime sweetheart, Taylor, just this past February (pictured below). It took Togo several months to learn how to be a pet, but it was not long before he learned how to fetch, beg, and enjoy pettings at any time. All activities that had been verboten for his entire life up to this point, but all things that he took a liking to rather quickly. Loved by mine and my brother’s children and all who meet this mild mannered “beast”, as my dad calls him, Togo is a constant companion and a bright joyous yellow spot to my entire family everyday.
On January 20th, Togo was diagnosed with aggressive bone cancer called Osteosarcoma, My sister wrote on her Facebook page,
“The world is broken. Friends commit suicide, divorce fractures families, and cancer stalks the world. We know in our hearts the world isn’t supposed to be like this. The Bible affirms this feeling, it reveals that the world wasn’t created with sickness, death, and estrangement. Our sin broke the world and every part of creation groans under the consequences of sin.
Romans 8: 22-24
“22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?”
But, God. He doesn’t let it end like this. The closer the pain and fall out comes to my life the more precious God’s redemption is to me. Jesus endured the pain of our sin on the cross to redeem our souls in the now and all of creation in the end.
Our redemption is already and not yet. Today, today as I face the loss of my companion I long for the new heaven and the new earth. I like Paul groan inwardly and eagerly wait for my adoption as a child of God and the redemption of my body. I look to scripture and see hope, hope for not only the redemption of people but final redemption of all creation where sin is ended and the world is created new. As I weep for the untimely and painful death of my pet, but I glorify God that this isn’t the end of the story. Togo will die of the bone cancer destroying his body, but as I walk through the pain of his impending death I look forward with hope to the coming of Jesus when he will set the world right.
21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.”
Today, May 14, is a dark day. Today, Togo will be put to sleep.
My sister’s perspective is right and true. Our world is broken, death is a vivid reminder that our sin has consequences and one day we will give an account of our lives here on earth and will either live forever with Christ in Heaven if He has enabled us, by the work of the Holy Spirit, to repent of our sins and put our faith in Him, or endure our perfectly just, eternal punishment in Hell for our sins. She will cry a lot today, her husband will console her and remind and reassure her of the truth.
Earlier this week he gave her something special, two pendants we had the great pleasure to produce for him. Reminders of one of the wonderful common graces that God offers to every man; the joy of a pet. When I visited my family in February for my sister’s wedding, my dad and I took a stamping pad to “the beast” to get his paw print. That print was used as the basis for the pendant with the idea that, “Paws leave impressions on our hearts” as a theme for the piece. Cut into the back of each pendant is the name of our beloved pup, Togo.
To my sister: Saying today is a rough day for you is an unfathomable understatement. Fighting tears as I write this, I can’t tell you how happy I am for three things: 1) The Lord has given you the hope of glory, found only through his great salvation 2) that He has given you a husband who loves Jesus and his personal relationship with Christ, allows him to console you in a way no one else can 3) That you are my sister and I love you.
My favorite picture of me and Togo. Each enjoying our favorite activities, me eating pizza and him begging.