My furrensics team and I often come across amazing and heartwarming stories of the animal-human bond. If your life wouldn't be the same without your animal companion, here's some true-life stories that will inspire you.
Special Thanksgiving Edition:
"The Best is Yet to Be:"
Gunny Comes Home, At Last--
by Heidi Killian Gaul
Months had passed, and my husband David still remained somber, unsettled, as if he couldn’t shake the blues. Because he couldn’t. Grief over the loss of our dog Lazarus shrouded this sweet man’s soul like a thick cloud. I’d always battled depression and considered myself ill-equipped to pull someone else out of the muck lest I fall further into the pit.
I had to do something. But what?
Spending the day with a close friend, we passed the local animal shelter, and on a whim, I pulled the car into their lot. As we moved from one enclosure to another, one particular dog caught my eye. A red mixed-breed male, he moved with grace and purpose, his serious nature and markings revealing a German Shepherd ancestry. When I asked about him, I was told I’d need to be very sure he’d have a great family because he deserved it.
I returned home, never mentioning the outing to David. My silence lasted for a week— a record. After a fair amount of pleading, we set out for the shelter. Now I worried the dog might have already been adopted. But as we neared his enclosure, I spotted him at its rear, sitting in his regal fashion. The dog with which he shared the space barked and paced the fencing.
We opened the gate and entered. I distracted the smaller animal as Dave strode toward the red dog and looked him over. Gunther made eye contact with my husband, took his place beside my husband’s left flank, and sat, facing forward.
My jaw dropped. There was more to this shepherd than we’d guessed. He was intelligent, very intelligent.
After filling out the forms and learning he understood nine commands, our new pet jumped into the back of our SUV as if he’d done it many times before. Our lives— and our hearts— changed from that moment forward.
But this creature that we’d adopted had so many problems. His fur was missing in numerous places, and his legs bore sores. His emotional scars went much deeper. This dog had been damaged by humans. Not by abuse, but by circumstances. His previous owners had clearly loved him, and we’d heard that when they dropped him at the shelter, they cried, hard. Yet they weren’t his first set of owners. No, this dog’s spirit had been broken by loving and losing one family after another.
He determined to keep that from ever happening again. He followed me everywhere, even the bathroom. When we took him on rides, he’d cry out in joy when we’d turn onto our street, as if … as if he thought we might drop him off somewhere just as the others had.
Any chance of David grieving disappeared as we brainstormed on how to heal Gunny’s heartache. And as we gained our puppy’s trust my perpetual blues lifted, as well. Coming home from the grocer’s one day, he met us at the door, his teeth bared in a ridiculous grin. From then on, we were a family— unbreakable, united forever.
This big goof of a pet protected me from any danger he perceived, walked us on a leash and played with us until we were tired of fetching. We learned overeating as a team sport and sleeping as a valid hobby, one well worth mastering.
He taught us the meaning of loving past fear and smiling past hurts. His power lay not in his muscular body, but in his weaknesses, just as ours did.
Gunny joined our little family an old man, with aches and pains and quirks and idiosyncrasies that drew us from our own self-obsession and into a triangle built on acceptance and support. After only four years it was time for him to go to his final home. We will never forget him or the lessons he shared with us.
Someday we’ll play ball with him, until we’re too tired to fetch again. And he’ll smile so big we can feel it all the way inside.
Heidi Gaul's writings can be found in four Guideposts devotional books, including Every Day with Jesus and Mornings with Jesus (2019, 2020 and 2021). She's also contributed to ten Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, and many Upper Room devotions. her passions—in addition to Jesus—include travel, gardening, and her furry family.
You can visit Heidi's website at heidigaul.com
Or follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/heidi.k.gaul
Fall 2019 Report: Her Knight in Shining Fur:
Christy Hoss and Diabetes Alert Dog 'Aiden'
“‘You need to find another doctor, because you’re always angry when you come in here.’” Christy Hoss had been a diabetic for almost thirty years, but this was the first time she’d heard that.
As Christy recalls, “I usually avoided my doctors because of the discouragement I got there. But [on this visit] my doctor pointed out I was very angry. That was an epiphany…that for twenty-five years I’d been dealing with deep-seated anger.”
On that office visit wake-up call, Christy’s doctor told her she could see Christy was having life-threatening blood glucose lows that Christy herself hadn’t even known were happening. One of them, one of these days, could kill her. Christy’s doctor offered her a choice to save her life: she could either have a continuous blood glucose monitor, or get a diabetic alert dog.
If a human being could be said to perk up her ears, this was that moment. The chance to have a service dog was the first opportunity for Christy to feel she could take control of her life back from diabetes. But it turned out to be much more than she bargained for. Type One Diabetes is a lifestyle as much as it is a disease, and handling a service dog is a lifestyle too. A very challenging one.
“They don’t just hand out dogs,” Christy smiles. Each dog represents the end product of many hundreds of hours of training and thousands of dollars of investment, knowledge and organization. There are always many more people wanting—needing—a dog to save their lives, than there are trained dogs available. But something was paving the way for Christy. Her doctor made the referral the very day of her appointment.
Similar to seizure alert dogs, Christy explains, Diabetes Alert Dogs use their sense of smell to monitor their handler’s physical condition. “They have a great nose, a million times better” than humans,’” she says. A life-threatening rise or drop in blood sugar causes “a change in your liver enzymes. You sweat that out and they can tell.”
Christy’s life began to change the moment having a service dog became a possibility. “Something changed for me. I started taking better care of myself. It was something new. I personally love dogs, so what goes better in my life than putting dogs and diabetes together? It’s the best decision I’ve made since giving my life to Jesus and getting married.”
Of course the question on every trainee’s mind was, ‘which dog will I get? When will I meet my partner?’ Each dog has a unique personality that must mesh symbiotically with its handler’s own personality and lifestyle in order to form a solid team. Christy had three trials with potential partners but none was ‘the one.’ “It was a discouraging time,” Christy acknowledges, but also, “a lesson for me in trusting God, that the perfect dog would show up for me.”
Then along came Aiden. The three-year-old Labrador had only been in the program one week but he was “just flying through training,” Christy recounts. “Aiden’s a beautiful dog and everyone wanted him.” Nothing like being handed the leash of the program’s hottest prospect to add pressure to the already fraught trial weekend process. Aiden dove into his work, proving he might be new to his job, but he was ready and eager to work for Christy. “That weekend he alerted on me, several times, and he was right!” Christy’s report impressed the D4D trainers. “Especially the alerting on me—they were totally blown away.”
The team recently celebrated their second year of partnership. To say Aiden made a difference in Christy’s life can be summed up in how Christy now speaks of her illness. “It’s like DIEabetes,” Christy emphasizes the first syllable, “was a death sentence. Since finding D4D, I call it LIVEabetes.”
For more information:
Read more about Christy Hoss and her novel and editing work at christyhoss.com.
For more information about diabetic alert service dogs, visit