In January of 2009, my best friend and I followed a Craigslist puppies ad from Pittsburgh to Youngstown, Ohio in a major snow storm. As we entered the basement of a house, puppies scattered in every direction. A “rebellious sort” at the time, I identified with the one that wedged himself underneath something and would not come out. We agreed. Let’s take that one!
Snoopy looked too much like “Snoopy” not be called Snoopy. He was tiny with long, floppy ears that were almost the size of his body. On the ride home, his needle teeth pierced my fingers. A basset hound mix, everything about him was quirky and unusual… so ugly that he was adorable. His front paws pointed left and right respectively.
The seller said he was 6-8 weeks old, but it later became clear that he was only about 4 weeks old. He had been taken away from the mother too soon. That may sound bad, but a dog with separation anxiety was exactly what the Great Physician ordered. I had followed my deceitful heart into a gay lifestyle and related addictions (Matt 7:13-14). By this point, I had isolated and trusted no one… well, no one but a harmless dog who wanted nothing more than to stand with me, accept and love me.
Over time, the Lord moved in power through that little monkey.
Read how the Lord used Snoop to move me toward repentance in my testimony book, Straight: an ExGay Prodigal Story.
After I answered the call to repentance in 2010, the Lord gave the peace that passes understanding. Previously feeding off my anxiety, even the dog was then finally at peace.
My life became a construction site (Phil 1:6). While addicted, I had been living in squalor. Gutting my filthy apartment was an initial restoration step. Although it was difficult to share all of my unique challenges in a church setting, Snoop never judged. While others disrespected and looked down on me, he always looked up to me.
Rebuilding out of a self-centered life, the Lord began to teach me responsibility and how to care for someone/something other than myself. Now I can see this was a baby step toward serving others on the mission field and one day having a family of my own (Mark 10:45).
Well aware from day 1 that I was called to missions, I figured my time with Snoopy would be limited (Luke 9:62). I would not have left that dog for anyone but Christ.
We lived a couple of blocks away from West Park on Pittsburgh’s North Side. During those first few months breaking old life habits, we walked in circles for hours. As the Lord trained and put me to work witnessing, our nightly walks quickly became evangelistic. It’s tough to find someone who is willing to go out and share the ever-offensive gospel of Jesus Christ these days, but Snoopy was a fearless companion.
Quirky and social, Snoopy melted hearts. The Lord used him to reach people that I could not have reached alone. One night he took off running through the trees. When I caught up to him, he was licking tears off the face of a prostitute seated against a tree. Overwhelmed and completely disarmed, she was open to hear the gospel message.
Snoopy’s photo on a Christmas card was all it took to coax even the most bitter of dog-loving unbelievers to read scripture.
In 2015, when the Lord nudged me that it was finally time to go to Southeast Asia, the hardest part was leaving Snoopy.
My parents have taken excellent care of him from 2015 until now. Joining their dog in a rural setting, he has actually enjoyed life more than being crammed in an urban apartment.
After Christmas 2019, my wife and I became stranded in Pennsylvania with Dad and Mom due to Covid travel restrictions. Sometimes he joined me for a walk up over the hill… trailing behind very slowly.
At dusk the evening before departure for Cambodia, I embarked on my final hike up the hill behind the house. As I disappeared into the woods, I continued to shout and clap for him. He remained in the driveway gazing up at me as though it was too much of an endeavor. Finally nearing the house at the tail end of an hour-long circle, I heard twigs breaking on the path behind me. When I turned around, there he was… my Snoopy… just like the early years… insisting on being with me wherever I went. This time, he suffered to carry out his duty.
I cheered him on and knelt down to hug him, realizing this likely would be our final hike together. On the path downhill back to the house, I poked around behind him so that he could feel like the top dog.
The next day, bags were packed to return to Cambodia. Especially in these uncertain times, we did not know for sure when we would be able to get back home. I said goodbye knowing I would probably never see him again. A few days ago, my dog Snoopy passed away. He had cancer.
As much as I long to see Snoopy again, God’s inspired Word indicates that I will not. Animals do not have souls (Eccl 3:21).
Snoop will be remembered – not as an object of worship (Rom 1:25) – but as a creation of God that He used more mightily than I ever imagined a dog could be used… to unconditionally love, soften the heart for conviction and pave the way for witnessing.
Praise the Lord for blessing me with the best canine companion for evangelism.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17