“I do not know just why He came to love me so. He looked beyond my fault and saw my need.”
I did a dog funeral yesterday. I’m a priest who loves and rescues dogs. And I am loved and rescued by those same dogs. So it’s not likely to be my last dog funeral. The dog’s name was Klunk. He was one of 200 dogs rescued by my local Humane Society during the Louisiana floods in 2016. He was only six months old at the time and was adopted immediately. But six months later Klunk was returned because he started fighting with other dogs. Unfortunately, fighting with other dogs would become a recurring theme for Klunk, as well as getting adopted and then getting returned. But the staff and volunteers of the Humane Society fell in love with him. They recognized that he had some behavior issues, and after one particular fight, he was given a “potentially aggressive permit” by Animal Control, but they never gave up on him. It seemed as though they would do anything and everything for Klunk. They took him to a mega-adoption event in Florida, where Klunk was the only dog among 27 dogs who did not get adopted. Then they went the extra mile and stepped up to pay for training for Klunk. When Klunk returned after another adoption didn’t work out, he got sick. But the staff nursed him back to health. Indeed, they loved him unconditionally. Eventually they thought they had found a perfect foster-based rescue out-of-state that included training. He had been doing well. But then Klunk got in a fight, and was immediately euthanized. The staff and volunteers who loved Klunk were completely devastated.
Klunk’s funeral was at noon yesterday in the blazing Louisiana sun with no shade. Those oppressive conditions didn’t stop those who loved him from coming to be there for him and with him one last time. He would be the first dog buried at a new pet cemetery the Humane Society is creating nearby. Virtually the entire staff and a host of volunteers showed up. It was obvious that Klunk meant a great deal to many. There were a lot of broken hearts and shattered spirits gathered together in that place. We read three passages from scripture including Psalm 104 which speaks of God’s love for all God’s critters: “In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. When you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” We also read Romans 8, a passage that reminds us that nothing can separate us from God’s love – not any of life’s greatest challenges, not fights with other dogs, and not even death. And finally, we read Jesus’ observation from the Gospel of Matthew, that when a small sparrow falls to the ground, God knows about it. And God cares about it. Because God loves every creature, even the smallest and the most challenging among us, God’s heart breaks when we are hurt or when we hurt others. I asked those gathered to share favorite memories and stories about Klunk and the emotion in their voices spoke of their deep affection for him. And then I quoted the old hymn “He Looked Beyond My Fault.” It seemed to express the sorrowful yet sacrificial sentiment that I was feeling as I came to know Klunk’s story: “Amazing grace shall always be my song of praise. For it was grace that brought my liberty. I do not know just why He came to love me so. He looked beyond my fault and saw my need. How marvelous the grace that caught my falling soul. God looked beyond my fault and saw my need.”
I had trouble getting the words out. I was moved so much by their love for Klunk. As one employee told me: “Behind all of Klunk’s challenges, we saw the sweet boy that he was.” I believe that the way they loved Klunk – to the very end – is the way that God loves each of us. We are given so many chances by God. God sees beyond our faults and knows our deepest needs. God sees our spirits, our potential, our beauty and our goodness. God will go the extra mile and will give everything so that we might be saved from our most dismal deeds. God will do anything and everything so that we might live more fully into his desires for each of us. An indestructible love like that seems rare in this world. But I witnessed it yesterday. And I experience it every time I fall in my own life. God shows up to rescue me. God never gives up on me. Thank you Klunk ,and thank you to all who loved Klunk, for reminding us just how amazing grace can be.