Meet Nova, my Siberian Husky. Yes, he is my best friend. I know that may sound like an overstatement considering he is a dog and not an actual person but, let me assure you it is true. His name means bright new star and boy does it fit.
Nova came into our lives during a very dark period. Before I get too far ahead of myself, let me give you a little history. My wife had been going through some very difficult cancer treatments, which had taken a toll on all of us, including our two children who were 11 and 8 at the time.
We live on acreage out in the country right at the base of Mt. Cheaha. We are surrounded by beautiful farmland as well as forest. Out here dogs run free and we had three Labs that did just that. One morning after dropping my kids off at school I came home to find one of our dogs in the front yard and he was very sick. I new it was serious. I rushed him to the veterinarian clinic to hear the terrible news. He couldn’t be saved. The vet knew what the situation was even before he ran any tests. Our dog had found some antifreeze and lapped it up. The vet asked me if I had any around my home and I said no. He then asked me if I had any other dogs and I said yes. He warned me that it was very likely that they would suffer the same fate because they were always together. I came home and searched the property and found them both in the same condition. My children went to school that day with three dogs and would come home to none, all while Lorie was fighting for her own life. It turns out that some hunters were trying to kill coyotes that scared the deer away and had put out antifreeze to do it deep in the woods. Unfortunately, my dogs found it before the coyotes.
I was struggling with having to put our dogs down but the vet said it was the only thing that could be done for them. All I could think about was telling Lorie, telling my kids, it was devastating. My daughter had told me a week prior to this that she wanted a Husky. Of course, I replied that we had three dogs and were not getting another one. This little piece of history is important and here is why. When I left the vet’s office without my dogs and feeling overwhelmed, I pulled into a Home Depot parking lot, not because I needed anything but, because I just needed to process it all. Parked directly in front of me was a guy selling Husky puppies. Suddenly, I remembered my daughter saying she wanted a Husky. I had just left the vet’s office and now I’m sitting in front of a guy with puppies for sale. I wrestled with the idea of getting out and talking to him about them. I was emotional. Was it a crazy idea or God’s way of redeeming something lost? I opened the door and asked if he had any left. Yes, I was rude because there were people in front of me. He said he had one boy left that wasn’t accounted for but that he didn’t have that puppy with him. The puppy was in Montgomery which is 100 miles away. These were very nice AKC dogs with a nice price tag. I explained to George, the owner of the dogs, what just happened and he said he would give me the dog for half the original price. He would also have someone meet me the next day with the dog right back there at the Home Depot.
I came home and told Lorie about our dogs, which was brutal. Then I told her about the Husky and asked her opinion about the whole situation. She said, “Sounds like a God thing to me”. I agreed! We told our kids what happened to our dogs that evening and we all had a good cry. We didn’t say anything about getting a new puppy the next day.
When the little 9-week-old fuzz ball got out of the owner’s truck, he ran right up to me. I loved him right away and the feeling was mutual. Lorie absolutely lit up when I brought him home. Later that day she was holding him while sitting on the couch when I brought the kids home from school. Those kids had just faced death in one day and now new life the next. It didn’t take their sadness away but, it didn’t stop them from being happy either.
Lorie had talked with the kids for a day or two about what to name our new puppy and of course they came up with some doozies. They thought about how sad they had been because of Lorie’s sickness and from losing their dogs. When I got home that evening Lorie told me that they had agreed on a name for the new addition to our family.
Nova is two years old this month. I’ll say it again, he is my best friend. As a puppy, Nova slept on a little mini trampoline in our bedroom that Lorie used for exercise. It didn’t take many months for him to outgrow that thing but, he would still curl up and sleep right there. Nova was a year old and full grown when Lorie got real sick suddenly. I had to take her to the hospital, which meant Nova had to go outside in a fence I had built. I was gone for two weeks. I never left Lorie’s side until she went to heaven.
When I came home, that first night was the worst night of my life. I let Nova in the house and he immediately knew something was wrong. He came into the bedroom where I was and raised up on Lorie’s side of the bed. He began sniffing the bed and looking around and then he began to whine. Although I could use words and he could only whimper, we both wept.
Nova has helped me everyday since. He has greeted me every morning and welcomed me every evening. When the calls, cards, and texts stopped coming from my people friends, there was Nova. He is much more than a pet.
Is it so strange that a best friend can be something other than a person? I don’t think so. We can sometimes find a friend in the most unlikely places or people. For example, there may be a place you visit from time to time that never seems to leave you the same. You always feel better for sitting under that towering oak tree looking out over the water. The gentle breeze that blows is nature’s way of giving you a hug. Yeah, I think a place can be a friend. I also think that we can find people friends when we don’t expect it. While taking Lorie to the doctor over the years I found a friend I never thought I would. You see, you go to a doctor to get treated for a condition, an ailment, a disease, and then you go home. It’s just business. But Lorie and I both found more than a physician, we found a friend. None of us planned for it to happen. It was organic, it was real. To this day, that doctor is my ally, my advocate, and yes, my true friend. We have a relationship beyond the clinic doors.
I think about all the other opportunities we have to make friends that we waste because we think it is not the right time, place, or person. However, you could find a friend while standing in line at Publix, or riding the subway, if you simply saw the people around you and offered a simple “Hello.” Yes, it can happen.
I recall an occasion as a pastor when a family came into our church that I had never seen before. Our building was so nice, clean, and beautifully decorated, like most churches are. However, these guests were not clean and they didn’t look beautiful. Their clothes were old, dirty and they were clearly destitute. All of our church members were walking around wearing their pretty clothes and I remember asking God, “How do I make these people feel comfortable here?” I didn’t hear God’s voice but he definitely spoke to me with a powerful thought. “You don’t need to make them feel comfortable, you just need to get comfortable with them.” So, you know what I did? I treated them like we were old friends. I welcomed them, looked them in the eye, held their hands, hugged their necks, and just loved them the same as everyone else.
I want to challenge you to think about others in this really harsh world right now and, decide to be a friend. The challenge is not to be friendly but, to be a friend. There is a difference. If you are reading this and wondering if anyone will ever be your friend, let me offer you my friendship. Even if we never meet, I offer you friendship. But there is someone who will be your friend that you can meet right now, right where you are. The Bible says that He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. His name is Jesus. He is a friend of sinners and saints. He welcomes you!
So, what is the proper perspective on friendship? Everyone can be a friend; everyone can find a friend. It could be in a person, a place, or even a pet. And above all else remember this, Jesus told His disciples that he didn’t call them his servants but, He called them His friends. He will be yours today if you let Him.
Live You Legacy,