You know, there’s a reason why cats were never bestowed the title of “Man’s Best Friend.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of anything fluffy and friendly, but dogs are something incredibly special. Dogs bond with you, they love you, and they let you know it.
In an op-ed for Fox News, Focus On The Family’s Paul J. Batura shared the heartwarming story of Shep, his family’s Great Dane. To them, Shep was so much more than a pet, he was a lifesaver.
Although Batura grew up with dogs, his college years and apartment life made for quite a lonely season, devoid of furry friends.26
After buying their first home, however, Batura and his wife, Julie, began thinking of making room in their hearts, and their home, for a pet. “n a moment of inspiration, probably after flipping through the latest L.L. Bean catalog, I thought it would be great to surprise Julie with a puppy at Christmas,” he wrote.
“Hinting about it over breakfast one morning, I quickly learned [Julie] preferred to rescue a dog instead, Batura continued. “‘If you love one of those dogs,’ she said, ‘They’ll pay you back the rest of their life.’”
Julie was absolutely right, but week after week of disappointing trips to their local pet shelter had yet to yield a dog that felt just right to them.
After coming so close to finding a dog they loved only to lose him to another adoptive family in a coin toss, Batura says an attraction in front of their local chain pet store led to the chance encounter with the dog of their dreams.
“A local Great Dane rescue group was holding a fair out front,” Batura continued, “so we stopped and were immediately taken by the grandeur of the animals, and the steely, stately stature of one in particular, a black Dane named Apollo.”
Apollo joined their family within a week, although he was soon renamed Shep, as his “ability to stare at us ram-rod straight” reminded the Baturas of their favorite Fox News anchor, Shepard Smith.
Shep came into the Batura’s family only a few weeks after they’d experienced a devastating miscarriage and a battery of tests and procedures to ascertain their ability to have children.
His strong dependability helped to carry them through such a painful season of life. “But then came the call from a friend,” Batura wrote, “and through a series of miraculous events only explained by God’s sovereignty, grace and the power of prayer, we adopted a baby boy.”
“Riley was the literal and physical manifestation of a dream come true,” Batura said, describing the little boy that God had brought into their lives. “After thinking we may never become parents, resolving that God had other plans, his arrival was the most welcome turn of the tide of our lives.”
Had God not placed Shep in the Batura’s lives when He did, however, their story could easily have ended in tragedy.
“In the winter after Riley’s first birthday, on a cold night of below zero temperatures, Shep startled us when he started pawing at Riley’s closed bedroom door, an uncharacteristic move for our usually docile, aging dog,” Batura recalled. “I tried to shoo him away, but to no avail. He began growling and barking.”
Heeding their dog’s urgent demand for attention became the move that saved Riley’s life.
“Opening up the door, we discovered a room filled with smoke,” he continued. “The space heater had malfunctioned and for whatever reason, the smoke detector above the crib had not gone off. Thanks to Shep, Riley was now safe.”
Shep’s amazing connection to his family is the stuff of legends, and even though, being a large breed, he didn’t live much longer after saving Riley’s life, he left an unforgettable mark on the Batura family.
“We welcomed him into our home thinking we were rescuing him,” Batura tells us, “but not only did he save our son in the process, but he also shepherded my wife and me through an emotionally and spiritually challenging chapter of our lives.”
If you have a friend like Shep in your life, thank God for it, because a dog you can depend on is one of His biggest blessings.