Part one appeared in the Herald Democrat Friday, July 12, 2019 under the title, “God was human, too.” It was well received. But, there is more to the story.

The puppy was pitiful looking, ribs clearly visible through his soggy, short-haired skin. At the time I was struggling to provide for a large family, and here was another mouth to feed. I did not ask for this. He had just shown up on my doorstep. I made a point of ignoring him, assuming that he would move on. But, he would not leave. Unaccountably, I never considered calling Animal Control to have him removed. One day, as I was walking down the street and the puppy was following me, a neighbor challenged me, “What are you going to do with that thing?” I could have told him the puppy was not my responsibility; but, something inside me told me he was sent for a purpose. I told the neighbor I would keep him.

I announced my attention to my family. They breathed a collective sigh of relief because, unknown to me, they had been feeding the the puppy. We named him Po’ Joe because malnourished as he seemed, he was one poor looking joker. I provided the usual equipment for an outdoor dog.

I took Po’ Joe to the veterinarian for immunizations. There, I learned he had intestinal parasites. The vet assured me that after the worm medicine had done its work, I would have to rename the puppy Fat Joe.

Po’Joe received professional obedience training. Meanwhile, I educated myself about dog behavior. I learned that dogs had a pack mentality. Po’ Joe saw my family as his pack, and me as the top dog. We went on long walks. We practiced tricks. This outdoor puppy managed to spend a lot of time in the house. Meanwhile, he grew into a strong, healthy dog with shaggy hair.

Po’ Joe knew how to walk at heel if I told him to do so by word or gesture; but, toward the end of a walk, I would sometimes let him pull me along on the leash because I was tired. A neighbor saw this one day and yelled, “Are you walking the dog, or is he walking you?” I stopped in the middle of the street, quietly said to Po’ Joe, “Sit.” He sat. I dropped the leash and began walking away. Po’ Joe began to stir. I said, “Stay.” He sat still as I continued walking away. Finally, I said, “Come.” He ran to me. As I walked, I commanded, “Heel,” and Po’Joe matched my pace, walking beside me.

I picked up the leash and continued walking. I looked back at the neighbor who was now smiling and nodding approval.

I could write more anecdotes about Po’ Joe, but, this is supposed to be an essay about faith in God. Six weeks ago, I wrote about gaining Po’ Joe’s trust by lowering myself to his level, as God made himself appreciable to humans by becoming one of us. Today’s essay was about God’s love transforming us from the mutts that we seemed to be, to the ‘best of show’ that he intended.

Keep reading. Six weeks from now, the conclusion of the matter.

The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.