The story of Skipper is a true story. It happened in about 1988 when Kyle was only seven years old. Today Kyle is a husband, and father, and pastor. One of the reasons he serves the Lord today is because the lessons God taught him as a boy. The best way to read this story is to gather the family around, settle into a comfortable chair, and read it aloud. Let me know what you think…
Skipper the Missionary Dog
By Kenneth L. Pierpont
When a boy is small he yearns for a companion. Since he hasn’t figured out girls aren’t yucky yet, he often yearns for the companionship of a dog. I knew this yearning was in my son’s heart and I wanted him to know the joyful companionship of a dog in his boyhood.
I set my heart on getting a Golden Retriever for him and one day, when he was about seven years old I told him so. We began to save our money and watch the paper. Usually by the time we responded to the ads for free Golden pups, they were gone. On one call the warm voice on the other end of the line said she had one mixed Golden/Border Collie pup left but it was not well and if he did love there were others on the waiting list for him ahead of us. Leaving my number with the lady, I hung up the phone. Kyle, my boy, had his heart set on a dog. I said, “Kyle, let’s just kneel down right here and tell the Lord we would like to have that dog. If He wants us to have him.”
Kyle went to his knees and I knelt with him. “Lord,” Kyle, pleaded, eyes squeezed closed with a earnest intensity… “I would love to have that dog. Please help him be OK and let him be my dog.”
I reminded him that there were others ahead of us who were interested in the dog and that the dog was sick and may not recover. Each night Kyle prayed for that dog.
We left for vacation the next day. A week later on our return there was a message on our answering machine. I punched it. Kyle was standing beside me.
“Hello, Mr. Pierpont, we just got our last puppy back from the vet and if Kyle still wants him we would like him to go to your home. You can come and get him any time you want.”
When she finished her message Kyle jumped in the air like a Pentecostal at convention and began to holler, “Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord….”
He ran back out to the yard to announce the happy news to his mother. We all knelt to thank the Lord together. It was on of the first answers to prayer in Kyle’s memory and we never wanted him to forget it.
On Sunday afternoon we drove out tot he house in North Liberty to meet our new family member. He had the long hair and shape and form of a Golden but he was pure white and a sparky little ball of fur. On the way home Kyle decided on Skipper and Skipper was his name. He was a beautiful white Golden Retriever and he grew like corn in Iowa.
We lived in the country and he had the run of the place. Within a few months he was full grown and bigger and stronger and more spirited than a Golden. He had the spunk an dspeed of a border collie and went though his smaller collars and chains. We kept him in a fenced-in yard but he loved to romp and explore when we let him.
He loved to turn our family football games into a game of keep away by grabbing the ball and running wildly around the yard. If we didn’t chase him he would lay down the ball and pretend he was disinterested until you got within a few feet of him then he would snatch it back up and be off in big circles around the yard.
One evening shortly after Kyle’s birthday we came home with a special treat for Skipper and a stronger chain and a bigger collar. When we got home Skipper was gone. We searched and called but after supper Skipper had still not come home.
Worry clouded Kyle’s face but I assured him Skipper would be back. “I’m sure Skipper just ran after some deer or maybe he met a pretty girls dog-but dogs know the way home-especially at supper time. Don’t worry Skipper will be home when he gets hungry.”
We sat down to dinner. Kyle pushed his food around with this fork. I can still see Kyle standing out by the back fence silhouetted against the sunset calling out in a pitiful, forlorn voice; “Skipper…. Skipper…. Skipper…..”
By bedtime Skipper was still gone and Kyle was fighting off tears. We prayed for Skipper and Kyle crawled into bed, but in a moment I could hear him crying. I got up and dressed and we drove the country side canvassing for any trace of Skipper. All the way around the country block no one had seen a thing of the dog all day long. By the time I reached the last stop Kyle was sleeping against the door of the car. I went to the door and our neighbor answered- a man I had not yet met though we had lived there for a year and a half. I introduced myself and described Skipper. “Have you seen him today?”
“I’m so sorry,” He said tears forming in his eyes, “I shot that dog today. He was killing my chickens and I got angry and shot him. I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have done it. If I knew it was your boy’s dog I would have called… I’m sorry…”
My heart sank and I walked back to the car and drove home. I woke up Kyle and we sat on the back steps. He said; “Did anybody see him, Dad?”
“Yes, son, but I’m afraid I have bad news. Skipper was getting into a farmer’s livestock and the farmer shot him. We should have kept him tied up. Skipper is dead, buddy. I’m so sorry.”
Kyle’s little body began to shake with sobs. I remembered the bitterness that poisoned my heart when I was a boy and my dog was killed by a careless driver. I knew that I needed to help him learn to forgive.
“Buddy, the man who shot skipper is really sorry. He feels awful. Tomorrow I think we should go and visit him and you can tell him that you forgive him.
I knew it would do them both good-Kyle to see our neighbor’s remorse and our neighbor to hear words of forgiveness from Kyle. Lois made a plate of oatmeal cookies and after supper the next evening we went over and delivered them. Kyle delivered a little well-rehearsed speech that he forgave him and the neighbor apologized again weeping.
The next day I saw him again in the village coming out of the township hall. It was voting day. I greeted him and standing there in front of the Township Hall he began to weep again. I tried to help him understand that he was forgiven but he was not comforted.
“When I was a boy I didn’t have much. I had two things that I loved. My dog and my shot gun. One day while I was gone to school my cousin came over to the house. He was drunk. He took my shotgun out and was firing it around because he was drunk he was not careful and he shot my dog. The dog was wounded an suffering so my cousin nub with drink clubbed my dog to death with butt of the gun. This all happened minutes before I got off the school bus. When I got home my gun was ruined and stained with blood and my dog was dead. When I killed you boy’s dog it all came back to me again and I feel so bad. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I can’t stop crying about it.”
I tried to witness to the poor suffering man and tell him of forgiveness through Christ, but he seemed too overcome with grief and guilt to listen. I assured him again of or forgiveness and said good-bye.
The next Sunday morning I looked out over the congregation and there was a new face. There in his Sunday best was our neighbor. People said everyone knew he was a skeptic and he had never been to church before in his life.
And Mr. Rousseau came back to church again and again every Sunday.
One Sunday morning I stood on the steps after the service as people filed out. Mr. Rousseau was among them. “Pastor,” he said, “I would like for you to come by the house this week to help me make my arrangements.” For just a moment I didn’t know what arrangements he needed to make, but then I realize he was referring to the arrangements for his funeral.
I said; “I will agree under one condition, that we don’t schedule it for at least another twenty years.”
“O.K. How about Tuesday evening? ”
“That will be fine.”
On Tuesday night a young man named Tim and I usually went out calling together. Mr. Rousseau had some wishes. I wrote them down.
“Mr. Rousseau, there is one funeral arrangement that is more important than any other. When I preach oyour funeral I want to be able to tell the people there that you are in heaven. Do you know that you are going to Heaven when you die?”
“Can you know that?” He asked.
“According to the Bible, you can.”
I showed him I John 5:13 “These things have I written unto you that you my know that you have eternal life.”
“Mr. Rousseau, could we take a minute and show you from the Bible how you can know that you have eternal life?”
In a few minutes we were all kneeling by the coffee table and our neighbor was asking God for forgiveness and salvation. A few years ago I checked on him and he was still living, still attending the village church there.
We didn’t have the missionary zeal to get to know our neighbor, but God loved him enough to send Skipper over for a chicken dinner.
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