I always said we should have sent Abby to a school for gifted dogs.
That crazy dog was so smart.
I still remember when Chuck brought Abby home. Chuck hadn’t intended to get a dog when he stopped by a rescue place in Omaha.
But Chuck wandered past cages until he saw a dog that looked like a pet his parents once had.
There was Abby with that sad, “please take me home” look in her eyes.
Chuck asked an attendant how much time Abby had left.
“A couple more days and we’ll put her down,” the guy said.
That was it.
Chuck found a cash machine, adopted Abby and our family got a third dog.
She was medium-size, black and white wonder. Abby’s coat was silky soft, but she had the funniest legs, perhaps revealing her heritage.
Her legs started out straight, but then seemed to go off at an angle.
The rescue place folks said she was part-basset hound and part spaniel, but I honestly wonder if she didn’t have some border collie in her.
Border collies are known for their keen intelligence — and she was smart.
Abby soon found ways to entertain herself while our family was at work and school.
She pawed open a drawer and ate our bread. She pawed open a cupboard door, pulled out SOS pads and got the blue cleaning powder all over our mauve-colored carpeting. She could nose open the latch on our gate.
And then there was the refrigerator.
Abby learned to paw it open, too.
We put chairs in front of the refrigerator door.
Eventually, we’d get one of those baby-proof devices that looked like a little, white seatbelt that you adhere to the refrigerator door.
But that didn’t happen until after the pot roast fiasco.
That happened in the winter.
At the time, I was busy writing a story at the computer in our basement.
We’d had a wonderful pot roast the night before and had a big hunk of meat and gravy leftover in a pan in the bottom of our refrigerator.
I was typing away when I heard a crash.
This wasn’t a good sign.
I rushed upstairs. The refrigerator door was open. The pan was on the kitchen floor and there was gravy everywhere. I rushed into the living room — with the mauve carpeting — and there was Abby with the pot roast.
“Get out!” I yelled at the dog as I opened the back door.
Abby ran out of the house like a horse bolting from the gate in a Kentucky Derby race.
I looked out the door after her.
It was snowy outside.
And there stood Abby with that pot roast hanging out the side of her mouth.
If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought she had a furry case of the mumps.
I slammed the door shut.
Then I started thinking how very cold it was outside and how heartbroken the kids — and I — would be if that dog froze to death.
I had to get Abby back in the house.
So I took a little thinly sliced deli ham and went to the door to try and lure her back inside.
“C’mon Abby,” I said, holding out the ham like a county fair prize.
The dog looked at me and didn’t budge.
And why should she?
She had a good-sized pot roast in her mouth.
I shut the door. I prayed that Abby would come back in the house.
Which she did — eventually — after she devoured the roast.
Years passed and our should-have-been-working-for-the-FBI dog got older.
She lived to be almost 14 years old and I’ve thought so many times what a shame it would have been if her life had ended early in that rescue place.
Did I ever forgive Abby for snatching the pot roast?
Because I loved her so much. Despite some of the stuff she did, she was my dog, who:
Looked out the picture window waiting for us to come home.
Would sit on the couch and bark at visitors until they petted her.
And who was my good friend.
Forgiveness — for me — wasn’t hard when it came to Abby.
And I wonder if that’s how it is for God when it comes to us.
The Scriptures say he knits us together in our mother’s womb and I have to think he starts loving us even before then. He knows how we’re made and what plans he has for us.
He sees us as babies and watches us grow. He sees our hurts and triumphs. He know our weaknesses.
He’s seen our pot roast fiascoes and still loves us.
How do I know this?
I read his words in the Bible. Scriptures like:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)
“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘plans to prosper and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
Does this mean God tolerates our sins? Not at all. The Scriptures say he wants us to repent (turn from) them and come back to him.
And he wants us to forgive others when they hurt us, too.
In the book of Matthew in the Bible, we find a place where a disciple of Christ, named Peter, asks Jesus about forgiveness.
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me?” Peter asks. “Up to seven times?”
Most people would think Peter was being generous.
But Jesus answers, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.”
Oh boy. That sounds like a lot.
Yet I think Christ knows the importance of love and forgiveness better than anyone — so much that he gave his life for us.
Jesus would go on to tell Peter a parable, which is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.
Christ tells about a servant, who owes a king an incredible amount of money and begs for mercy. The king forgives the debt.
That servant goes out and finds another guy who owes him a much smaller sum of cash. That guy begs for time to pay him back.
But instead of being merciful, the first man has his fellow servant thrown into prison until he can pay back all he owes.
When the king hears the news, he’s enraged. He asks the first guy why he wasn’t merciful and has him thrown into prison where he’ll be tortured until he can pay back all he owes.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart,” Jesus says.
Wow. Tortured in prison?
And yet, what torture do we experience when we live in unforgiveness?
It’s been said — in various ways — that harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison, hoping it kills your enemy.
Here’s what I think: Unforgiveness is a thief that robs you of peace and joy. It’s a door that can block the free, loving flow of the Holy Spirit. It’s a chain that keeps you linked to bad memories that replay repeatedly in your mind, making you miserable, angry and even feeling hopeless.
With forgiveness comes peace that allows you to really breathe again. And as Christian author Beth Moore says, forgiveness doesn’t make what they did right, it just frees you.
Abby has been gone now for eight years and I’ve cooked many pot roasts since then.
But I’ll never remember a pot roast like the one my very smart dog escaped with on that snowy day years ago.
Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.