by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

It had been a really bad day. I found myself caught up in a plethora of emotions ranging from betrayal, hurt and disappointment to anger. My dismay and anguish might have been beyond relief if it had not been for the happy yelp and wagging tail of the little dachshund that met me as I walked through my door.

After spending a couple of hours holding my puppy in my lap and being lavished with extravagant licks, I suddenly realized that my world didn’t seem so terribly wronged. My peace of mind that hours earlier seemed forever disturbed was returning. I could feel a calmness taking over that was allowing me to once again think rationally and clearly.

A recent study conducted at Queen’s University, Belfast, Ireland shows that the dog may truly be man’s best friend. The research found that people with canine companions tend to have lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and fewer medical problems. And, they tend to recover more quickly from serious illness. One of the report’s conclusions states that dogs can directly promote our well being by buffering us from stress. I certainly felt much better after I spent quality time with my doxey!

I always feel an unconditional love and unquestionable loyalty when I’m in her presence. She appears unconscious of my faults, failures or weaknesses. Thank goodness! Her faithfulness is never fleeting — it has no strings attached. Her love continues day after day and is freely given.

As I sat there cherishing the moments spent with my dachshund, I thought to myself: “Who else but this little dog loves me unconditionally?” It was in that moment as I basked in the love of my dog, that I remembered there was another who loved me like this — God.

It’s really no surprise that God loves you and me constantly, faithfully and without conditions, since God is Love. There’s a parable which Jesus shares that for me epitomizes God as Love while teaching lessons about what it means to love and be loved.

I suspect many of you will know this story as the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32) But there was another son in that story I don’t always remember. The parable begins in fact, “There was once a man who had two sons.”

The younger of the two sons asked his dad to give him his inheritance early because he wanted to leave home to go out on his own. But this younger son didn’t make wise decisions and eventually wasted all of his money. It wasn’t until he was starving and slopping pigs for his living, that he decided to go home and ask his dad if he would hire him, since he no longer felt worthy of being treated as a son. At least his dad fed his hired servants three meals a day!

But when the dad saw this young son whom he had given up for dead, he felt only love for his child. This dad saw no faults, failures or weaknesses in his son. He saw only a much beloved son whom he wanted to embrace.

All the years since the younger son left, the older son had remained ever faithful and diligent in service to his dad. Now this older son felt unappreciated by his dad as he watched him celebrating his brother’s return after he had wasted everything their dad had given to him.

But again, this patient and compassionate dad reminded this older son of his appreciation for his faithfulness and said, “Everything that is mine is yours.” But he also told his older son that it was right to celebrate the safe return of his younger brother.

Because that is what Love does — Love loves.

As I thought about God’s love for me, I knew He was giving no concern to the faults, failures and weaknesses that were mine — or those of others. God was too busy loving me and everyone to see anything less than His beloved children.

And I thought, “Perhaps I need to do the same. Maybe I could forgive and forget what I consider someone else’s fault and failure — and I can do this because I love them.” I also realized that I could forgive and forget what I was considering my fault and failure in the situation because I needed to love myself in the way that God loves me.

Interestingly enough, as I sat there feeling quite loved by my dog and very loved by God, it was not long before I could feel nothing else but love. And what was a very bad day was transformed into a doggone good one!