A dog’s tale about trust in God, part one

By Jenna Ebener

“We have a few dogs in mind for the team training in May,” the caller said. Although I felt joy, my initial response to these words also included shock and dismay as I thought, “how can I possibly make that work?”

For seven years, I knew animal-assisted interventions were the way I could bridge my lifelong passion for animals with my passions for social work and children. For the past four years, I have been actively working to get a facility dog team established at my school whose students have a combination of medical, cognitive and behavioral disabilities. I had been eagerly awaiting the opportunity that the phone call presented.

While things had been going along at a snail’s pace, all of a sudden, they were happening at hyper speed and it was hard to believe. In a span of three weeks, I went from trusting God that it was going to happen but not knowing how or when to suddenly being told it was going to happen in five weeks.

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That phone call meant I was invited to California for two weeks to train with a potential facility dog. After an extensive application process, the agency I wanted to partner with had a few assistance dogs in mind that might be a good fit for our school. They were around 2 years old, had been trained from the moment they opened their eyes and knew over 40 commands.

I had spent years deciding what agency to go through, what type of dog our school needed, and getting the approval to make it happen. I was faced with a huge decision: do I go to California now and leave for two weeks while school is in session or do I wait and hope that they will have a dog in mind for me during the training this summer?

The answer to everyone else seemed common sense — go now! I, however, was wracked with anxiety. With so much going on, I felt overwhelmed. The past two months had been insanely chaotic, and that is saying something, considering my field of work with children with special needs. I was exhausted and did not feel in a positive enough state of mind to make such a big decision.

Coincidentally, I had planned on calling the agency that weekend to make sure that I would not be considered for a match until the summer training. God, however, had another plan and I could not be more thankful.

Being forced to make a decision and not take the easy way out, I did the only thing I could think of that would help: I prayed. I spent hours in adoration that weekend pouring my heart out to God. I listed pros and cons, read the Bible more than I had in years and tried to simply listen. I finally came to peace with thinking that I would likely say no, and wait until the next opportunity opened up.

Again, God had another plan for me. As I shared my thoughts with a deacon at my church, he helped me realize that the biggest emotion I was feeling was fear. While either decision had pros and cons, I saw that I was afraid of having to add so much stress to my plate by missing two weeks of work. Again, I became wracked with doubt, so I returned to adoration. Finally, I got to the point where I was at peace with either decision. I ignored the fear and said yes! “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27). (Story to be continued.)

(Jenna Ebener, who has a Master of Social Work from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, is a social worker at a school in Colorado for students with disabilities.)


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1 thought on “A dog’s tale about trust in God, part one

  1. A difficult decision! So glad it turned out. Gregory is such a great match. You and he are going to make a tremendous difference at the school and in others’ lives (already enhanced mine!)

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