Companionship is one of our highest values as people; knowing we’re not alone, that there’s a warm and listening presence that is with us, for us, no matter what.

So often that companion is a faithful dog.

My daughter and son-in-law just lost their beloved Foster, an amazing Australian Shepherd who loved well and faithfully.

Michael got him while still in college when Foster was only twelve weeks old. He grew up with Michael, being the forever friend that was always there, to go for a hike or cuddle up.

Having an affable friend willing to do what you want them to do is an incredible gift.

When Michael and Courtney became engaged, Foster moved in with her so they could get to know one another better. He soon became her friend, protector, walking companion. When Courtney and Michael married and set up home together, Foster shared love with both of them. Always present. Always loving.

When their son, Beck, was born a few years ago, Foster once again became the protector and companion, watching over Beck’s crib, vigilant and kind. His love for this little guy was so expansive that Beck could crawl on him, and Foster patiently allowed it.

When another puppy was added to the family, Foster patiently dealt with the energy and shenanigans of a young sheepadoodle, a cross between an English sheepdog and a poodle. Wally was bouncy and flouncy and soon grew bigger than Foster. But he learned from his elder, and settled into a routine more quickly because of his older friend.

When Courtney and Michael went on vacation, they left Foster with Michael’s brother, who loved him almost as much as his brother did. While they were gone, Foster died in his sleep. This was a huge loss for the whole family. Foster had loved everyone well.

Our need for close friends, people we trust, who are there for us without judgement or criticism, is a necessity that’s part of our humanity. God made us for relationships, for community, where we can connect with people, be loved by others, and be fully accepted no matter who we are.

It’s sad that so often dogs do this better than we do. They don’t judge, they tolerate a lot of disruption, and they’re faithful.

Those are the friends we long for. The ones who don’t question how we show up. Those who may not condone our behavior but won’t condemn us for failure. Or distance themselves in embarrassment.

That’s the kind of friend Jesus is. Faithful, dependable, persevering even when I choose poorly or act unseemly. Once forgiven, He never takes it back, never stops loving me, never ceases to provide the strength I need to live each day.

There’s real freedom in being loved unconditionally. Without strings attached. Without having to prove myself day in and day out or make sure my works and efforts outweigh my mistakes.

The reason Foster’s loss was so great for his family was because he was that faithful and dependable friend who stayed the course with them no matter what.

Jesus does that for me. For the long haul.

I don’t have to worry about losing Him.

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