Stryking a chord...

Yesterday, Don and I attended the public memorial at Camp Pendleton for the police dog, Stryker, who died in the line of duty on New Year's Eve.

On this beautiful sunny San Diego day, hundreds of us gathered to mourn. It was an awesome sight. The service was conducted much like many of the human memorials I have attended or officiated. With the noted exception that most of the attendees were uniformed police officers and handlers along with their canine (K-9) partners. Several civilians were there as well as many Marines. Parked on the field was the K-9 patrol car with Stryker's photo. Several dignitaries spoke in regards to the officer and his partner; and spoke to the training and handling of Stryker becoming a working police dog.

Parking was at a premium because of the crowds. It was interesting to note the license plates and stickers of the parked cars that indicated a support of animals--particularly canines. Cars from the local animal shelters, rescue groups and even one sticker identifying a pastor from Saddleback Church. My heart was wide open at this confirmation and support from various communities showing respect for a fallen public servant. This time, it happened to be a police dog. It was wonderful to see that there had been great care and attention paid to the event by the Oceanside Police and the generosity of Camp Pendleton.

When Officer Sadler spoke publicly for the first time about his fallen partner, it was deeply moving. He shared some of his history with Stryker, as well as the information about the tragic night and his subsequent grieving process. Office Sadler was clear and strong up until the point where he shared that despite friends' loving suggestions to not read any press or editorials about the story, he read one letter from a man who was aggravated that so much hoopla was being made about Stryker's death. ..."After all, he was just a dog."

It was that very sentence that launched me into creating what is now known as The Animal Kinship Ministry. When our eight-month old puppy, Wunjo died rather suddenly back in 1994, I faced a devastating loss and a grief for which I had no resource or comfort. People within my own church echoed similar sentiments of judgment that my grief and sadness of the loss of my dog was nothing compared to losing a human family member. And of course, the classic next response was..." It's just a dog. You can get another one." Sure I can--just as soon as someone extracts the burning-hot spear out of my heart and I stop crying long enough to adopt one.

My search for comfort and understanding during the loss process is what gave me the motivation and inspiration to return to ministerial school. The Kinship Ministry and Teams began to flourish within UCRS and I found my calling. Along the way, I got distracted by doing church for 10 years and I had to keep the Kinship focus in a level of abeyance and private ministry support. I can do that no longer.When Taps was played at the memorial, followed by "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes, there was a deep stirring that I cannot ignore. As a result of being a co-author and Faith Advisor for Best Friends Animal Society's Animals in Religion Forum, Proclamation for Animal Compassion; and from attending this service, I know I have to return to working with and for animals. What I don't know as yet, is how that is going to manifest, so I have to turn that over to God to make happen.

Once again, my spiritual guide showed up in furry form.

Bless you and thank you Stryker.


ellie said…
I'm so glad that you were able to attend this amazing event. Thank you for your insight.

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